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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 113-9
 Header Item Office of Public Works Staff
 Header Item State Properties Data
 Header Item European Safety Standards
 Header Item Enterprise Support Schemes
 Header Item Poverty Impact Assessment
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Youth Unemployment Measures

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 818 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 113-9

Office of Public Works Staff

 113. Deputy Billy Timmins Information on Billy Timmins Zoom on Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if he will be employing any more engineering staff or any other staff in the near future in the Office of Public Works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45271/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes All recruitment undertaken by the Office of Public Works is governed by the necessity to remain within the staffing limits directed by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform through the Employment Control Framework (ECF), together with level of funding made available to meet payroll costs. Recruitment of additional permanent staff is subject to the sanction provided via that Department.

  In relation to Established staff, the Office of Public Works (OPW), through the Public Appointments Service, is currently in the process of filling the post of Engineer Grade II (Fire & Security) and also recently advertised for the post of Director of the Botanic Gardens.

  In relation to our State Industrial staff, there are no plans to recruit permanent staff in the near future. However, as occurs annually, it is intended to recruit the 2014 seasonal complement of staff in due course, principally to meet the demands of arterial drainage maintenance work and to augment guide staff at our heritage sites and/or visitor centres.  These are advertised to the public.

  The Office also has a training programme for the Graduate Engineers which assists them in attaining the skills and learning required to become Chartered Engineers.   The programme involves taking in 10 graduates per year over a rolling 3-year cycle, up to a maximum of 30 graduates.   A competition to place a further 10 Graduates is nearing completion and the successful candidates will be placed in January, 2014 which will bring the total placed to 30.

  While not in a position to offer further employment opportunities, the Office is committed to partaking in the JobBridge programme and has recently offered 7 further placements on a 9 month work experience placement bringing the total such placements since 2011 to 54.

State Properties Data

 114. Deputy Ann Phelan Information on Ann Phelan Zoom on Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the amount of land in public ownership in counties Carlow and Kilkenny; and if he will identify all lands owned by the public, including land owned by local authorities and semi-State bodies.  [45286/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes The Office of Public Works (OPW) has a substantial portfolio of properties in its care. It has only one land bank, a 3.06 acre site in Thomastown, County Kilkenny that was acquired as part of the decentralisation programme for a new headquarters for the Health and Safety Authority. OPW has other properties in Carlow and Kilkenny. A list of these can be provided if required.

Any public lands in the ownership of the Local Authorities or Semi State Bodies is a matter for those organisations.

European Safety Standards

 115. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his plans for developing a safety strategy on the importation, procurement and use of Chinese lanterns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45186/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Chinese lanterns or sky lanterns are small balloons, generally made of paper and bamboo, with a burner inside to generate hot air that gives the lantern its lift. Permission is required from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) before any launch of these products can take place. They are classified as 'free floating balloons' for which written launch permission is required. I am informed that there have been no recorded injuries in Ireland to people resulting from the use of sky lanterns.

The establishment of a European safety standard for these products is being considered by the European Committee for Standardisation. However, there is an acknowledgement that it is not a straightforward product for which to develop a standard. Under article 13 of the current General Product Safety Directive, an EU Commission decision to ban certain products can be made where there is agreement by member states that the risk is immediate and that current law does not protect the health and safety of consumers. This decision is valid for a year but can be renewed for terms not exceeding a year.

Enterprise Support Schemes

 116. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the measures available to sole traders to help them employ persons and to improve their business in general. [45277/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Anyone interested in starting or expanding their own business should in the first instance contact their local County and City Enterprise Board (CEB). The CEBs support the indigenous micro-enterprise sector in the start-up and expansion phases and stimulate enterprise potential at local level. They are the first port of call in terms of advice, direction, training and, in certain circumstances, grant support for anyone who wishes to start or expand a business. Contact details for the CEBs are available on www.enterpriseboards.ie.

  Work is well underway to transform the support infrastructure for small and micro businesses, which will see the CEBs as presently constituted dissolved and re-formed as Local Enterprise Offices within Local Authorities working under the direction and guidance of the new Enterprise Ireland Centre of Excellence. This will ensure that Ireland has an enhanced, seamless and benchmarked support and progression pathway for small and micro business. I am confident that this reform will bring about a new level of engagement and interaction at both national and local level in relation to enterprise support and economic recovery and growth, and will result in an enhanced, more consistent and coherent set of enterprise supports with positive effects in terms of start-up numbers and increased employment.

  I have also introduced two targeted schemes to support an additional flow of credit into the economy, namely the Microenterprise Loan Fund and the Credit Guarantee Scheme to positively impact on entrepreneurship and job creation. The Microenterprise Loan Fund improves access to credit for microenterprises and facilitates the growth and expansion of viable businesses with less than 10 employees from all industry sectors across the country, which have been refused access to credit from the banks. Support is in the form of loans for up to €25,000, available to start-up, newly established, or growing microenterprises, with viable business propositions, that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by banks after one full year in operation. As of 18 October 2013, MFI has approved 109 applications to the value of €1.674m supporting 107 microenterprises and 237 jobs.

  The SME Credit Guarantee Scheme (CGS) supports SMEs who, because of lack of collateral or because of the sector they operate in, face difficulties in accessing traditional bank credit. Commercially viable, well performing micro, small and medium enterprises that have a solid business plan and a defined market for their products or services, and can demonstrate their ability to repay the loan are the target of this scheme. The CGS is currently being independently reviewed to help improve the Scheme for all businesses. I intend taking appropriate action as a result of the review to ensure use of the Scheme is maximised and a report will be published shortly. As at 4 October 2013, there were 69 live CGS facilities resulting in €9.7m being sanctioned through the Scheme by the participating lenders resulting in 433 new jobs being created and 139 jobs maintained.

  In addition, JobsPlus which was a disruptive reform in the 2013 Action Plan for Jobs is a new employer incentive, now run by the Department of Social Protection. This pays a cash grant towards employers who offer employment opportunities to the long term unemployed. Anyone interested in availing of the scheme should contact their Department of Social Protection local office.

Poverty Impact Assessment

 117. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will consider the implementation of a poverty impact assessment to assess the impact of the revised rent supplement limits announced in June 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44934/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. There are currently over 82,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided over €403 million for 2013. New revised rent limits came into force on Monday 17 June 2013 and will be in place until 31 December 2014.

The new rent limits were determined following an extensive review of the private rental market which showed rising rents for urban centres, particularly Dublin and Galway and reduction in rents for the majority of counties. The new limits continue to ensure that value for money is achieved while, at the same time, people on rent supplement are not priced out of the market for private rented accommodation. The purpose of rent limits is to provide adequate access to accommodation for rent supplement tenants, while paying a minimum contribution. Where rent limits have fallen, this is due to the local rental market's supply and demand conditions which set the local pricing levels of rental property in the respective area.

Officials in the Department continue to examine the impact of the rent limits on those who claim rent supplement and ensure that their accommodation needs are met. Accordingly it is not proposed to conduct a poverty impact assessment.

Rent Supplement Scheme Eligibility

 118. 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 her attention has been drawn to the issue regarding levels of rent that those availing of rental assistance are supposed to negotiate in County Donegal, in view of the fact that these levels are not realistic for the local rental market and persons are being forced to move out of a house they are happy living in as landlords are refusing to negotiate rent.  [44908/13]

 134. 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 her attention has been drawn to the hardship many families in County Donegal are enduring due to the reduction in rent levels; and if she will consider a new level to reflect the local market. [45326/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 134 together.

The purpose of rent supplement is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation, whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The overall aim is to provide short-term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer.

The Department has completed a review of the maximum rent limits for rent supplement. The revised rent limits came into effect on 17 June 2013 and will remain in place until 31 December 2014. The emphasis of the June 2013 review was to ensure that value for money was achieved whilst, at the same time, ensuring that people on rent supplement are not priced out of the market for private rented accommodation. It is essential that State supports for rents are kept under review and reflect current market conditions.

During the rent limit review the Department used information from rental tenancies registered with the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) to analyse actual rental costs in each county across the country. The Department also used publicly available data sources including the Central Statistics Office rental indices, the Daft.ie Rental Report and websites, advertising rental properties to ascertain both the market trends and the current asking prices for one, two and three bedroom properties. The new maximum rent limits will not change the "after accommodation costs" income of persons receiving rent supplement.

The Department is satisfied that the new rent limits provide access to accommodation for persons claiming rent supplement. While the central aim is to ensure availability, the limits do not provide rent supplement tenants with access to all housing in all areas. Officials in the Departmental will continue to monitor the impact of the revised rates and those administering the scheme will continue to ensure that the accommodation needs of rent supplement recipients are met.

Youth Unemployment Measures

 119. Deputy Colm Keaveney Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of persons aged 25 or under in receipt of jobseeker's benefit; the number of persons aged 25 or under in receipt of jobseeker's allowance; the number of dedicated training placements she is making exclusively available to those aged 25 or under; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44913/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The number of persons aged 25 or under in receipt of jobseeker's benefit or in receipt of jobseeker's allowance are 3,153 and 51,076, respectively.

  Provision of the information requested by the Deputy in relation to the number of dedicated training placements she is making exclusively available to those aged 25 or under is the responsibility of my colleague Ruairí Quinn T.D., Minister for Education and Skills.


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