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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 227-243
 Header Item Employment Permit Legislation
 Header Item National Lottery Funding Applications
 Header Item Public Services Provision
 Header Item EU Directives
 Header Item Clothing Imports Issues
 Header Item Farm Assist Scheme Applications
 Header Item National Internship Scheme Numbers
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals
 Header Item Social Welfare Code Issues
 Header Item Family Income Supplement Applications
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item National Internship Scheme Numbers
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals

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. 227-243

Employment Permit Legislation

 227. Deputy Dominic Hannigan Information on Dominic Hannigan Zoom on Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his plans to amend the Employment Permit Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55310/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton My Department is currently preparing new legislation, the purpose of which will be to consolidate and streamline the Employment Permits Act 2003 and the Employment Permits Act 2006. The legislation will: update provisions for the employment permits schemes in line with policy and economic developments since 2007; provide the flexibility to deal with changing labour market, work patterns and economic development needs which often require rapid response; provide for a robust employment permits regime with greater clarity for applicants; and cater for the accession of new Member States to the EU.

My Department is also actively considering the issues raised in the High Court judgement of 31 August in relation to unlawful employment contracts. It is my firm intention to amend the Employment Permits legislation in a precise manner so as to ensure that an employer may not benefit from the illegality of the contract of employment where they are found culpable in not ensuring a valid employment permit was in place for the employee concerned.

In tandem with this, my Department has reviewed its processes with a view to attracting more ICT related applications and other applications regarding highly sought skills and is confident that significant improvements can be made shortly which will greatly enhance the employment permits regime. I intend to announce a range of improvements in this regard shortly.

Work is proceeding in my Department with regard to the preparation of the Bill. Heads of Bill were approved by Government last April and since then, my Department has been engaged with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in order to progress the drafting of the Bill. I intend to introduce the Bill early in 2013. The Bill is a Government priority and I would expect a speedy passage through the Oireachtas after its introduction.

National Lottery Funding Applications

 228. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the reason a project (details supplied) in Dublin 8 was informed by the county enterprise board that they do not qualify for funding from the National Lottery in respect of their restoration project. [55328/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has no decision making role in relation to the distribution of National Lottery funding to community based projects. Nor indeed do the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs). The funding available from the CEBs is aimed towards providing assistance to commercially viable micro-enterprises in the start-up and expansion phases with priority being given to micro-enterprises in the manufacturing and potentially internationally traded services sectors. Furthermore, the four Dublin-based CEBs have each confirmed that they have not met with representatives of the named project.

Public Services Provision

 229. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton 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. [55434/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I take it that the Deputy is referring to the Public Service Reform programme agreed by Government in November 2011. Last July the Government agreed a range of actions aimed at achieving a focused and integrated approach to external service delivery of non-core processes with the objective of reducing costs and focusing staff on priority areas.

As part of this approach, the Government has decided that all proposed new services across the Public Service will be tested for external service delivery before any approval to provide the service internally will be granted. External service delivery leads have been appointed in every Department and Sector. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, has responsibility for overseeing the development and implementation of external service delivery policy for the Public Service.

I can advise the Deputy that no new services of this nature have been provided by my Department since March 2011. However, if any new services are proposed, my Department will test them for external delivery in line with government policy.

EU Directives

 230. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the steps he has taken to ensure that all Government Departments have fully implemented the Agency Workers Directive and are fully compliant with the protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Act. [55550/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Act was enacted on 16th   May, 2012. I published a national information notice in December, 2011 in relation to the legislation and in particular in relation to the retrospective provision in the Act. During the course of the legislative process, officials in my Department met with various stakeholders whose members would be affected by the legislation, including officials in relevant Government Departments, to consult with and inform them about the legislation. A guidance document in relation to this legislation is also available on the Department’s website.

  In the event that agency workers have not received equal treatment in relation to their basic working and employment conditions as outlined in the Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Act, the Act provides a redress mechanism to the Rights Commissioner Service.

Clothing Imports Issues

 231. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his policy regarding importation of sandblasted denim; and his plans to ban the importation of same.  [55563/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The competence for the EU's common commercial policy, covering trade in goods and services as well as investment, lies with the European Union. I am not aware of any plans by the EU Commission to propose a ban on the importation into the EU of sand blasted denim.

Farm Assist Scheme Applications

 232. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will expedite an application for farm assist in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [55066/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer on 1st November 2012, who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the 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 on social welfare entitlements.

National Internship Scheme Numbers

 233. Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the progress that has been made to put in place a national graduate and apprentice internship scheme as outlined in the Programme for Government 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55076/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I understand that the Deputy’s question relates to JobBridge the National Internship Scheme and I will respond to it on that basis. The National Internship Scheme was launched on 1st July 2011. It provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals at all skills levels that are in receipt of one of the following claims (Jobseekers Allowance/Jobseekers Benefit/One Parent Family Payment/Disability Allowance) or are signing on for credits for at least 3 of the last 6 months (78 Days).

  The aim of JobBridge is to assist individuals in breaking the cycle where they are unable to get a job without experience. It provides them with an opportunity to gain valuable experience, relevant knowledge and skills within a working environment. Furthermore, the Scheme is open to organisations or self-employed individuals in all sectors including private, public, voluntary and community sectors provided they have a minimum of 1 full time employee (employed for 30 hours or more per week, subject to tax and PRSI).

  The JobBridge Scheme has made significant progress since it came into operation on the 1st July 2011. Over 12,800 internships have commenced to date with 5,578 participants currently on an internship as at 6th December 2012 and over 2,100 internship opportunities presently advertised on www.jobbridge.ie. An independent evaluation of the Scheme conducted by Indecon found that 52% of individuals who have participated in JobBridge have progressed into employment on completion of their internship placements. This represents very significant progress and very strong progression rates into employment.

  Further information on outcomes will be ascertained as a result of the ongoing formal evaluation of JobBridge. It is anticipated that the final Report will be available in late December. This evaluation will assess the design, delivery and impact of the JobBridge Scheme, it will provide details of the nature of the work experience of the participants; a measurement of the relevance of that experience to the labour market, analysis of age categories and further findings concerning progression into employment. It will also present recommendations on how the Scheme might be improved. It is at this stage that further consideration will be given to amending the terms and conditions of the Scheme

Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility

 234. Deputy Jim Daly Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the progress that has been made in relation to the setting up of a community involvement scheme that will allow for people in receipt of job seeker's allowance to participate in community work such as maintaining roadside vergers and general maintenance of community resorts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55205/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton In general, work such as maintaining roadside vergers and general maintenance of community resorts is a function for local authorities and not for community organisations. Elements of work to enhance the environment for local communities is undertaken under a number of work placement and related schemes funded and managed by my Department, namely, the Rural Social Scheme, Community Employment and Tús – the community work placement initiative. These are organised at a local level with local authority engagement. As part of the recent budget package for my Department, I announced my intention to introduce a social employment scheme in co-operation with local authorities. Development work on this scheme will begin immediately with a view to having it operational by the middle of 2013.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

 235. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if a domiciliary care allowance will be granted in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry.  [55056/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton An application for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) was received from the person concerned on the 24th October 2012. This application was referred to one of the Department’s Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for DCA. A letter issued on the 20th November 2012 advising of the decision.

In the case of an application which is refused on medical grounds, the applicant may submit additional information and/or ask for the case to be reviewed by another medical assessor. Alternatively, they may also appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 236. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath 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 Dublin 13. [55064/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 18th September 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the 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 on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Code Issues

 237. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide details of assistance that is available to self employed and returning emigrants, if they find themselves unable to find alternative employment or if their businesses are not sustainable; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [55098/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Self-employed workers are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4% - the same personal rate as is paid by ordinary employees. However, employers also make a PRSI contribution of 10.75% in respect of their employees, resulting in the payment of a combined 14.75% rate per employee under full-rate PRSI Class A. As a result, ordinary employees can build entitlement towards the full range of social welfare benefits. Class S contributions provide cover for long-term benefits such as State pension (contributory) and widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's pension (contributory) only.

In terms of current supports available to self-employed persons, in certain cases, a self-employed person who had insurable employment in the relevant year and had paid sufficient Class A contributions may qualify for a jobseeker’s benefit payment, provided all the conditions of the scheme are satisfied.

A self-employed person who has paid insufficient Class A contributions may instead qualify for jobseeker’s allowance. Jobseeker’s allowance is a means-tested payment and in assessing a person’s means for the purposes of this allowance, account is taken of all income which the person may reasonably expect to receive during the succeeding year. In general, this means assessment will take account of the level of earnings in the last twelve months in determining their expected income for the following year. In the current climate, account is taken of the economic situation and it is accepted that future earnings may be lower than those of previous years. The process also recognises the potential for significant upward or downward variations in income from one year to the next.

It should also be noted that EU/EEA regulations provide that periods of social insurance in one Member State may be credited to a worker's social insurance record in another Member State to facilitate qualification for Jobseeker’s Benefit. In this regard, the person must have been covered by a period of social insurance in the other country and the person must have paid at least one reckonable contribution since the date they last arrived in Ireland.

Family Income Supplement Applications

 238. 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 application for family income supplement in respect of a person (details suppplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55165/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned applied to have his FIS payment renewed from 30th August 2012. His average earnings were calculated having regard to his earnings in the year ended 31 December 2011, the latest available P60. His most recent payslips were also examined but these gave him a higher weekly net income than his P60. The income from his P60 was used in his FIS assessment as this gave a more representative view of his net income over a longer period of time resulting in him qualifying for a more favourable rate of FIS.   Based on his P60, the net weekly income of the person concerned was assessed at €256, which for a family with two children qualifies him for a weekly FIS rate of €208.00 for 52 weeks from 30th August 2012 to 28th August 2012.

  From the information submitted with your question, it appears that the income of the person concerned changed again from October 2012. However as his entitlement to FIS is determined from 30th of August 2012 for 52 weeks, income changes from October 2012 will not be taken into account until his renewal application in August 2013.

  An integral part of the FIS scheme is that once the level of payment is determined, it continues to be payable at that rate for a period of 52 weeks, provided that the person remains in full-time employment. The rate of payment may be increased if an additional child is born during the 52 week period.

  On the other hand, the rate of payment will not change if there is an increase or decrease in the recipient’s earnings. A key advantage of this approach, which is unique to the FIS scheme, is that claimants can be certain that they will receive a guaranteed level of income support throughout the period.   This certainty is important to the success of the scheme as it provides a real incentive to workers with families to avail of employment.

Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility

 239. Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if the amount due on the mortgage every month can be used to offset rental income for the purposes of claiming means tested social welfare payments, in particular jobseeker's allowance. [55224/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Social welfare legislation provides that the yearly value of “property owned but not personally used or enjoyed” is assessable for means testing purposes. Property for this purpose includes: i. Money invested in a bank, building society or other financial institution; ii. The current market value of stocks and shares of every description, and iii. Houses and premises owned by a claimant which may or may not be put to commercial use (including property which is rented out).

However, it does not include property such as the home or, for example, a premises used by the claimant in carrying out a business.

For assessment purposes, the current market value of the property is established as well as the amount of any outstanding mortgages on that property. The balance (market value less outstanding mortgage) is assessed by reference to a formula. Where the current market value is less than the outstanding mortgage, no assessment is made. Accordingly, it is the value of the outstanding mortgage which is taken into account as distinct from the interest payments on that mortgage.

In establishing the current market value of a property, the Department may make enquiry of the State Valuation Office. Alternatively, the market value may be established through receipt of a reasonable current valuation from a registered auctioneer, with reference to the purchase price and date of purchase of the property or, alternatively, the inspector may agree a valuation with a customer having regard to the type and location of the individual property and prevailing market values in that area.

The current market value of a property is the best estimate of what would be achievable if the property was offered for sale. Such an estimate will have regard to reductions in prices over recent years.

Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility

 240. 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 if she will review the jobseeker's allowance payment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare, who is now working maximum one day per week; the amount the applicant is receiving per week in respect of this payment and the way this figure was reached; if she will re-examine the arrears that were issued in the case and set out the way in which they were calculated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55229/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton A review of the jobseeker’s allowance claim of the person concerned will be undertaken and the person concerned will be informed of the outcome once the review is completed.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 241. 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 progress made to date in respect of determination of an appeal in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare and their application for disability allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55233/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  As part of the appeals process, the department referred all the medical evidence received to a second medical assessor for review. The medical assessor was of the opinion, based on all the information supplied, that the person concerned was not medically suitable for disability allowance. The person’s appeal has now been referred to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for determination.

National Internship Scheme Numbers

 242. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will explain the way an organisation (details supplied) was able to employ a number of jobbridge workers while at the same time moving to dismiss nine full time workers; and the action she will take regarding same.  [55238/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The National Internship Scheme was launched on 1st July 2011. It provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals on the Live Register, in organisations in the private, public and community voluntary sectors.

  Its aim is to assist in breaking the cycle where jobseekers are unable to get a job without experience and provide the opportunity to gain valuable experience, relevant knowledge and skills in a working environment.

  The JobBridge Scheme has made significant progress since it came into operation on the 1st July 2011. Over 12,800 internships have commenced to date with 5,578 participants currently on an internship as at 6th December 2012 and over 2,100 internship opportunities presently advertised on www.jobbridge.ie. An independent evaluation of the Scheme conducted by Indecon found that 52% of individuals who have participated in JobBridge have progressed into employment on completion of their internship placements. This represents very significant progress and very strong progression rates into employment.

  In response to the specific matter raised by the Deputy, I wish to advise an email complaint in respect of this matter was sent by UNITE trade union on 27th November at 20:49 to the JobBridge Central Unit. This matter was fully investigated on 28th November and a response was issued by the JobBridge Central Unit on 29th November at 09:23. This matter was also raised by Deputy Joe Higgins as a Topical Debate Motion on 29th November though it was not ultimately selected for answer; a response was accordingly then issued to the Deputy on 30th November at 16:18 in respect of this matter.

  The complaint alleged that Chartered Accounts Ireland was using JobBridge to displace employees. It was alleged that these incidences of displacement took effect from August 2012. As highlighted above, this complaint was treated very seriously by my Departments’ officials and investigated immediately.

  The investigation of this complaint found that Chartered Accountants Ireland had only advertised one internship opportunity on the JobBridge website since August 2012. This internship position, reference: 710310 was for a Marketing Executive.   The advert went live on the JobBridge website on 21st August 2012. Our records indicate that nobody has been selected by the company to start this internship. This was communicated via email to an official of UNITE and Deputy Joe Higgins. In the respective email responses from the JobBridge Central Unit. UNITE was invited to contact the JobBridge unit in the event of any further queries or concerns in this regard and that staff in the unit would assist further. My Department has not to date received a response to the email correspondence sent to UNITE and Deputy Higgins on this matter.

  Furthermore, UNITE and the Deputy were also advised that Chartered Accountants Ireland submitted an additional five internship vacancies but these were rejected by the JobBridge team as they did not meet the Scheme’s quality criteria.

  The terms and conditions for participation in JobBridge are stringent to ensure that strong systems and controls are in place.

  In order to protect the Intern and to ensure the integrity of the JobBridge Scheme a variety of control measures and criteria have been introduced. These ensure that the internship does not displace an existing position; that it provides appropriate training and development experience; and that appropriate mentoring and support is provided to the Intern.

  Firstly, the Standard Agreement signed and agreed to by both the Intern and the host organisation upon commencement clearly states the terms of the internship; including the expected working hours, which can range from 30–40 hours (maximum) per week and the specific learning outcomes the intern will gain over the course of their internship.

  Secondly, to ensure that both the host organisation and intern are abiding by the spirit and the rules of the scheme, the Department of Social Protection are involved in the on-going monitoring of internships. This involves the regular review of monthly compliance reports and the conducting of random monitoring site visits to facilitate discussions with both parties to the internship. I am delighted to advise that 97% of monitoring visits conducted to-date were of a satisfactory nature. Remedial action has been taken in cases where the visit was deemed not to be of a satisfactory nature.

  Consequently, it is worth noting that participation in the Scheme is voluntary and an intern may contact the JobBridge Team at any stage of their internship for advice and support.

Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals

 243. Deputy Peter Mathews Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a decision will issue in respect of an appeal for jobseeker's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55270/12]

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 available evidence disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officer’s decision on 10th   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.


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