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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 571-589
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals
 Header Item European Employment Service
 Header Item Free Travel Scheme Review
 Header Item Child Benefit Appeals
 Header Item Registration of Deaths
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility
 Header Item Budget 2014
 Header Item Family Income Supplement Appeals
 Header Item National Parks and Wildlife Service Expenditure
 Header Item Environmental Schemes
 Header Item Arts Funding
 Header Item Public Service Obligation Services

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 819 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 111 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 571-589

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 571. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will examine an invalidity pension appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46935/13]

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 3rd   October 2013 who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

  In the event that the means of the person concerned are insufficient to meet his needs, it is open to him to contact his local Community Welfare Service to explore his possible entitlement to Supplementary Welfare Allowance pending the outcome of his appeal process.

  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.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 572. Deputy Pat Deering Information on Patrick Deering Zoom on Patrick Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will have a decision on their invalidity appeal; and if she will expedite an answer. [46943/13]

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 17th   September 2013. 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 these papers have been received from the Department, the case 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 appeal 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.

European Employment Service

 573. Deputy Joe Higgins Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of letters drawing the attention of recipients of unemployment benefit and unemployment assistance to job vacancies abroad issued by her Department; and the criteria upon which it is decided who should be sent such information. [46959/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The European Employment Service, known as EURES was founded by the EU to further the development of a common labour market. The Department of Social Protection is required to provide the Eures service in Ireland and is obliged under European Law to bring to the attention of jobseekers in Ireland all employment opportunities in the EU/EEA which may be suitable for, and/or of interest to them. Equally, the EURES service is used to fill positions in Ireland from the wider European labour market where the necessary skills cannot be found in Ireland e.g. native language skills.

In the year to date, EURES has issued some 6,000 letters to jobseekers for positions in the wider EU/EEA. The letters were issued to people on the live register and to people who have registered with the Department’s employment service as seeking a change of job.

In addition to notifying EU area vacancies, the Department, from time to time, will notify vacancies advised by Government authorities in other states. This notification of vacancies operates on a reciprocal, goodwill basis.

The criteria used to select people is based entirely on the details provided by jobseekers registering for the Department’s employment services and a careful match is made against their skills, education, training and experience and the requirements of the positions on offer.

Availing of such job opportunities in the wider EU/EEA labour market and in other states is entirely at the discretion of the person receiving such communications from the Department and where a person does not wish to take up such opportunities his/her social welfare payment, where applicable, is not affected. The letters issued by the Department to jobseekers reflects this position.

Free Travel Scheme Review

 574. 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 the future of the free travel scheme in the context of the budget 2014 (details supplied) and the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [46960/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The free travel scheme was introduced in 1967 in order to provide transport services to those aged over 70 who were living alone and in receipt of a social welfare pension. Owing to the range of policy changes implemented in the interim, the scheme is now universally available to all persons permanently living in the State aged over 65, as well as carers in receipt of carers allowance, and certain others in receipt of disability type payments. The effect of this broadening is that there are currently in excess of 770,000 customers eligible for free travel and, when spousal and companion passes are taken into account, there are over 1.2 million customers with some free travel eligibility. Expenditure on this scheme was frozen at 2010 levels by the previous Government. The available expenditure for the free travel scheme in 2013 is €77 million.

Given the increasing number of recipients and the funding pressures, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and I established a working group with representatives from the two Departments, as well as the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the National Transport Authority to review the free travel scheme. The purpose of this review is to examine and report on the current operation and future development of the free travel scheme. This will include the conditions imposed on the scheme in the National Recovery Plan 2011 – 2014. The work of this group is expected to conclude this year.

  Question No. 575 withdrawn.

Child Benefit Appeals

 576. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will expedite an overpayment appeal regarding child benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46990/13]

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 of the available evidence, has decided to partially allow the appeal of the person concerned by way of a summary decision. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer’s 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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

  Question No. 577 withdrawn.

  Question No. 578 answered with Question No. 428.

  Question No. 579 withdrawn.

Registration of Deaths

 580. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her plans to amend the Civil Registration Act Part 5 in order that the death of an unborn child or children can be registered where their death has occurred and has been confirmed by a registered medical practitioner to be as a direct result of the death of the mother. [47036/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The loss of a child in any circumstances is an extremely tragic event for a family and I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to those families who have lost children. The procedures governing the registration of deaths are provided for under Part 5 of the Civil Registration Act, 2004. When a death occurs it is registered on foot of a certificate of cause of death supplied by a registered medical practitioner. Where a death is referred to a coroner, the death is registered by a registrar on foot of a coroner’s certificate. These are the only circumstances under which a death can be registered.

Section 28 of the Civil Registration Act, 2004 provides for the registration of stillbirths. A still born child is defined under the Act as “a child who, at birth, weighs not less than 500 grammes or has a gestational age of not less than 24 weeks and shows no sign of life and ‘‘stillbirth’’ shall be construed accordingly”. Section 28 (7) of the Act provides that, if a coroner ascertains that a body is that of a stillborn child, he or she shall notify a registrar in the functional area of the authority in which the body is located of the stillbirth and shall give to the registrar, in as far as he or she can ascertain them, the required particulars in relation to the stillbirth, and the registrar shall register the stillbirth in such manner as an tArd-Chlaraitheoir may direct.

While acknowledging that the loss of an unborn child is very sad for the family concerned it would not be practical or feasible to establish and maintain a register of deaths in such cases. It is not intended, therefore to amend the Civil Registration Act, 2004 to allow for the registration of deaths without a medical certificate or a coroners certificate stating the cause of death.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 581. Deputy Jack Wall Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47043/13]

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 of the available evidence, has decided to disallow the appeal of the person concerned by way of a summary decision. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer’s 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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

 582. 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 the contributory pension of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford will be paid upon the payment of an outstanding income tax and PRSI liability; and if not, the reason for same.  [47052/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton A self-employed person cannot be deemed to meet the qualifying conditions for State pension (contributory) unless all outstanding PRSI contributions are paid. The person concerned has outstanding liabilities with Revenue for the 2008 and 2010 income tax years. The person concerned should notify the Department when the outstanding liabilities have been fully discharged, at which point their pension application will be reviewed and they will be notified of the outcome without delay.

Budget 2014

 583. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide in tabular form the partial year and the full year monetary effect of her Department's budget 2014 reductions to expenditure.  [47083/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the tabular statement.

Measure Savings 2014 € million Savings Full Year € million
Recovery of social welfare payments -

Recover the value of certain social welfare payments from compensation awards made to persons in relation to loss of earnings.  To be introduced in 2014.
21 22
Illness Benefit - Increase the number of waiting days for entitlement to Illness Benefit from 3 days to 6 days, from January 2014. 22 22
Invalidity Pension - In line with the abolition of the State Pension Transition from January 2014, discontinue the weekly rate of €230.30 for Invalidity Pension at age 65 and align with the weekly rate of €193.50 currently payable to Invalidity Pension recipients aged under 65. Analogous adjustments will also take place in the Invalidity Pension Qualified Adult weekly rate of payment. These measures will apply to Invalidity Pensioners reaching their 65th birthday  and to qualified adults reaching their 66th birthday, both with effect from January 2014.   5 10
Jobseeker’s Allowance – Extend the application of the €100 rate of Jobseeker's Allowance and SWA to persons without children who reach the age of 22, 23 and 24 and extend the application of the €144 rate of Jobseeker's Allowance and SWA to persons without children who reach the age of 25, from January 2014. (The Back to Education maximum rate for 25 year olds will be reduced to €160 per week for relevant new entrants). Lower rates of Jobseeker’s Allowance will apply to applicants under 25 who have exhausted their Jobseeker Benefit entitlement. 32 72
Maternity and Adoptive Benefit - Standardise the minimum and maximum weekly rates (currently €217.80 and €262 respectively) of Maternity & Adoptive Benefit at €230 per week. Applies to new claimants only from January 2014. 30 36
Mortgage Interest Supplement - Discontinue the scheme for new applicants and allow a winding down of the current MIS recipient base over a four year period, from January 2014. 12 30
Rent and Mortgage Interest Supplement - Increase the minimum contribution for couples by €5 per week, from €35 to €40, thereby further aligning Rent and Mortgage Interest Supplement contributions with the Local Authority rents structure, for new and existing recipients, from January 2014. 6 7.1
Household Benefits Package - Reduce the annual payment to RTÉ for the Free TV Licence by €5 million from €59.17 million to €54.17 million. 5 5
Household Benefits Package - Discontinue

the Telephone Allowance for all recipients, from January 2014. 
44 47.1
Bereavement Grant - Discontinue payment of the €850 grant in respect of deaths on or after 1 January 2014. 17 22
Supplementary Payments - Reductions in expenditure on certain supplementary welfare payments. 5 7.8
Savings from increased Employment support efficiencies 12 12
Savings from increased labour market activation 10 10
Fraud and Control Measures – additional fraud and control initiatives. 30 30
Administrative Savings 5 5
Expenditure reductions arising from lower than anticipated estimate of expenditure for 2014. 34 34
Total 290 372
 

Family Income Supplement Appeals

 584. Deputy John Lyons Information on John Lyons Zoom on John Lyons asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding a family income supplement application appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47128/13]

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 20th August 2013. 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 23rd   October 2013 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.

  Question No. 585 withdrawn.

National Parks and Wildlife Service Expenditure

 586. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if he will ensure that the hen harrier compensation money that is being received in a person's current plan will continue to be matched in 2015, in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [46072/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Since the notification of six Hen Harrier Special Protection Areas in 2007, my Department, through the National Parks and Wildlife Service Farm Plan Scheme, has supported farmers to voluntarily undertake works to benefit the Hen Harrier. This Scheme has been integral to supporting Hen Harriers and the ecosystem that they are part of.

  However, due to budgetary constraints, the Scheme was unable to accept any new entrants since 2010. The farm plans last for five years and any existing contracts are being honoured to their completion. The contract of the person referred to in the Deputy's Question is due to come to completion in 2015.

  My Department is working with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with the aim of inclusion of measures in the next Rural Development Programme to support appropriate management of Natura 2000 areas.

Environmental Schemes

 587. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if a person (details supplied) in County Galway who is participating in the Twelve Bens-Maam Turk complex scheme that is due to finish at the end of this month, is permitted to put sheep back up on the mountain at the end of the Twelve Bens-Maam Turk complex scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [46443/13]

 601. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if all limits on stock and farming practice on the Nephin Beag range and the Maam Turks-Twelve Bens have been lifted; if not, the restrictions that remain; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [46558/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan I propose to take Questions Nos. 587 and 601 together.

The grazing restrictions in the Twelve Bens/Garraun Complex Special Area of Conservation, the Maumturk Mountains Special Area of Conservation and the Owenduff/Nephin Special Protection Area concluded on the 1 November 2013. These interventions ran for 5 years in Co. Galway and 7 years in Co. Mayo, respectively, and I would like to acknowledge the active participation of the farming community during this period.

Participation in a farm plan in these areas is no longer mandatory and the offwintering requirement has been removed. The issue of the general requirement to maintain the land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) is a matter for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Arts Funding

 588. Deputy Michael McNamara Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan the projects which were allocated funding in 2010, 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013 under the scheme whereby 1% of all capital project funding is allocated to the arts and to specify the projects which had a music component. [45729/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan In 1997, a Government decision approved the inclusion in the budgets for all Exchequer-funded capital construction projects of up 1% as funding for an art project, subject to an overall cap of €64,000.

The current guidelines on the Per Cent for Art Scheme were drawn up in 2004 to set out how project managers are to operate the scheme and to provide a common national approach to its implementation. My Department has responsibility for the promotion of the Per Cent for Art Scheme but does not provide funding for it and it does not have a budget for it.

The scheme does not operate on the basis of there being a specific public art fund from which monies are drawn down to undertake or commission works of an artistic nature. Instead, under the terms of the scheme, such works are factored into, and funded from, the budgets of the capital projects in question by the relevant public body undertaking the project. It is a matter for each project promoter or commissioning body to maintain details of such expenditure.

The Per Cent for Arts Scheme guidelines assist with its implementation. The scheme is now well-known and embedded in all public infrastructure works. The public have become familiar with the works of art on our roads, but there are also art works resulting from the scheme in schools, hospitals and all buildings funded by the taxpayer. Public art is not confined to sculptures; it has also resulted in performances, new writings and compositions.

There is no doubt that the impact, particularly the visual impact, of this scheme has been overwhelmingly positive.

Public Service Obligation Services

 589. Deputy Noel Grealish Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if he will work with persons (details supplied) who are preparing a socio economic study of life on the Aran Islands; if he will give a commitment to renew the PSI for air travel to the Islands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45883/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Dinny McGinley): I assume that the Deputy is referring to the Public Service Obligation (PSO) air service for the Aran Islands. In this regard, I wish to inform the Deputy that my Department recently agreed a new contract for this service, which commenced on 1 October and will run until 30 September 2014. The Deputy will be aware that my Department is currently seeking consultants to conduct a review of the air service for the islands. The consultants will be expected to source all relevant information in order to conduct the review, as outlined in the terms of reference, and to consult with all relevant stakeholders.

I can assure the Deputy that my Department will, to the extent possible, make available information that it holds that may assist with any study of the nature referred to by him.


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