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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 401-421
 Header Item Microenterprise Loan Fund Expenditure
 Header Item Microenterprise Loan Fund Development
 Header Item Health and Safety Regulations
 Header Item Work Permit Applications
 Header Item Enterprise Support Schemes
 Header Item Trade Agreements
 Header Item IDA Site Visits
 Header Item Regional Aid
 Header Item Budget 2014
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes
 Header Item Social Insurance Issues
 Header Item Social Insurance Rates
 Header Item Birth Certificate Issues
 Header Item Register of Solemnisers
 Header Item Family Income Supplement Eligibility
 Header Item Budget 2014
 Header Item Budget 2014
 Header Item Household Benefits Scheme

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. 401-421

Microenterprise Loan Fund Expenditure

 401. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 224 of 22 October 2013, the number of groups invited to tender for the role of developing the microenterprise loans fund; the number short listed; the dates on which the procurement exercise was conducted; and if he will confirm that it was consistent with the highest standards in public procurement.  [46145/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton My Department developed proposals for the Microenterprise Loan Fund, in close consultation with relevant stakeholders, (including the Department of Finance, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the European Investment Bank, and practitioners already in the area of Microfinancing), on foot of a clear commitment in the Programme for Government. As the relevant expertise, both internal and external to the Department, was available to assist and advise on the development of the fund no further external groups were invited to tender for the development of proposals. The result of the Department’s work, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, led to the Government deciding to legislate to establish the Microenterprise Loan Fund and Microfinance Ireland in 2012.

Microenterprise Loan Fund Development

 402. 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 role played by Social Finance Foundation in the consultation to establish the Microenterprise Loan Fund; if this body made direct recommendations to his Department; and if he will make these recommendations public.  [46146/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Social Finance Foundation (SFF) is a not-for-profit company (limited by guarantee and having no share capital) that acts as a wholesale supplier of funding for social finance which was launched in 2007 by the last Government. Social finance is about the availability of loan finance at affordable interest rates primarily to community-based projects. These projects, which generate a social benefit, often experience difficulties in accessing loans from mainstream lending institutions. SFF, as a wholesale lender in the social finance arena, operates through Social Lending Organisations (SLOs) that it funds, to work with, and ultimately lend to, the borrowers.

On foot of the Programme for Government my Department developed the Microfinance proposal, in close consultation with relevant stakeholders, including the Department of Finance, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the European Investment Bank, and more detailed discussions with practitioners already in the area of Microfinancing. As an existing Government initiative in this arena, SFF was part of the development process.

The Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) on the Microenterprise Loan Fund was published in April 2012 in advance of the enactment of the Microenterprise Loan Fund Act 2012 and Microenterprise Loan Fund Scheme 2012. It details in full Government thinking on Microfinance at that time.

Health and Safety Regulations

 403. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will confirm that the Health and Safety Authority retains powers conferred by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 in respect of the operations of Irish Water and agents contracted by it to carry out installation works of water meters; if not, if he will indicate the way construction works undertaken by Irish Water and its agents are to be monitored to a satisfactory safety standard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46161/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation I have responsibility for workplace health and safety legislation.

The implementation and enforcement of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (No. 10 of 2005), has been delegated to the Health and Safety Authority, an agency under the aegis of my Department. Under this legislation the definition of a place of work includes any, or part of any, place (whether or not forming part of a building or structure), land or other location at, in, upon or near which, work is carried on whether occasionally or otherwise.

I can confirm, accordingly, that the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 applies to Irish Water and all other employers / contractors engaged in activities relating to the installation of water meters and that the Health and Safety Authority retains all powers conferred on it by the Act.

Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005, duties are placed on employers in regard to the retention and preservation of the health and safety of their employees, and similarly to others including non-employees either present at a place of work under the control of the employer or employees not in the direct employment of the employer responsible for the place of work. As with all workplaces any works carried out by Irish Water in respect of the installation of water meters may be the subject of a workplace health and safety inspection. Similarly, as with all employers, the company will be required to prepare and maintain a written risk assessment relating to all work practices and the outcome of this risk assessment must be taken into account in the preparation, by the company, of its safety statement.

Additionally, as the work of Irish Water in relation to the installation of water meters will involve construction work as defined by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations, 2013 (S.I. No. 291 of 2013), this legislation will also apply to the construction work being undertaken. This legislation also falls within the remit of the Health and Safety Authority and in particular, the duties of the client will apply to Irish Water.

Work Permit Applications

 404. Deputy Dan Neville Information on Dan Neville Zoom on Dan Neville asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the position regarding an application for a green card in respect of a person (details supplied). [46378/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I am pleased to advise the Deputy that a permit issued in respect of the person named on 29th October 2013.

Enterprise Support Schemes

 405. 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 if there are grants available from agencies under his Department's aegis specifically for companies looking to increase the amount of sales and marketing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46413/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Anyone interested in starting or expanding their 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.

  Enterprise Ireland (EI) offers a range of financial and non-financial supports to assist clients through all stages of the business development cycle. These include supports for job creation and where appropriate, capital investment. The main EI Grant offers available to client companies that are seeking to expand include the following:

- Going Global Grant - A grant for market research costs to assist companies that have successfully established businesses in Ireland who wish to explore opportunities to internationalise as a route to growth;

- Internationalisation Grant – A grant to support the costs of researching and exploring new international business opportunities;

- Job Expansion Fund - Funding towards the recruitment of new employees;

- Tailored Company Expansion Packages - support for companies who are planning   to undertake an ambitious expansion that will create employment and grow sales in international markets. The nature of the package will be determined through discussions with Enterprise Ireland.

  The specific nature and level of support offered to EI client companies depends on the individual company’s development needs and is assessed in consultation with their EI Development Adviser. Development Advisers work with companies to:

- discuss business development needs;

- provide impartial confidential advice on business plans;

- provide information on the wide range of financial and business development supports available from Enterprise Ireland;

- guide client companies through the application process for relevant supports;

- make companies aware of sectoral events and networks of relevance to their business.

  Funding decisions are broadly determined by the need for financial support for the project; potential employment and sales growth; previous funding provided to the company and, the regional location of the company.

  Companies who are not currently Enterprise Ireland clients, but who wish to contact the Agency, can do so via the “Get Export Ready” Helpdesk at: 01 7272829 or visit the website at: http://www.enterprise-ireland.com/en/Export-Assistance/Get-Export-Ready.

Trade Agreements

 406. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the measures that are provided for in the EU/Canada Trade Agreement to protect the Irish and European beef and pork sectors, in view of the major concessions on beef and pork ceded by the EU to Canada in the Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [46486/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The political agreement reached on the key elements of a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada was announced on 18 October 2013 by EU Commission President Barroso and Canadian Prime Minister Harper. There will now be further technical discussions based on this political agreement, which are necessary to finalise the legal text of the agreement.

  As regards agricultural products, there were concessions on both sides – that is part and parcel of negotiation. Both the EU and Canada have sensitivities in agricultural products. These sensitivities were among the last key issues to be finally agreed, after very long and tough negotiations. Technical discussions will now take place to agree how to phase in the new agriculture concessions that have been granted by both sides. I will seek to ensure that these are as advantageous as possible to our national interests.

  I would like to point out that Irish agri business exporters also stand to gain from the hard won concessions provided by Canada. For example Canada will open for the EU a new bilateral quota of 18,500 tonnes of cheese, eliminate its tariffs on imports of milk protein concentrate, eliminate virtually all tariffs on processed agricultural products and wipe away import taxes on over 92% of agriculture tariff lines, from the first day the agreement takes effect. These are very   significant concessions to the EU made by Canada and especially in its sensitive dairy sector.

  The final market access agreement in agriculture contributed to both sides concluding a trade agreement that covers virtually every aspect of economic activity, and is an extremely important one for Ireland. It is the first comprehensive trade agreement with an historically close trade and economic partner and is a landmark deal between our two transatlantic economies.

  It is especially important given the close ties of family, history and culture that connect Ireland with Canada, which will help Irish entrepreneurs and innovators use the opportunities that the agreement offers, to the fullest possible extent.    

  The opportunities presented by the Agreement could add over €200 million to Ireland’s current €2.7 billion bilateral trade with Canada, thus creating more jobs and contributing to our economic recovery.

IDA Site Visits

 407. Deputy Brendan Ryan Information on Brendan Ryan Zoom on Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the number of times since January 2012 that companies looking to invest in Ireland have been shown industrial units in an area (details supplied) in County Dublin as potential sites to set up business; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [46707/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I am informed by IDA Ireland that the data on site visits by potential investors is tracked on a county by county basis. Balbriggan is part of county Dublin and, in the period from January 2012 to date, there have been a total of 372 site visits by potential investors to the Dublin area – City and County.As Ireland competes for high quality investments, the concept of scale is crucial. Leading global corporations require a significant population pool, access to qualified talent, world standard physical and digital infrastructure coupled with the availability of sophisticated professional and business support services. Dublin is recognized as one of Europe’s leading business locations and has been a spectacular success in terms of Foreign Direct Investment as it hosts many of the world’s leading companies such as Google, eBay, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Oracle, Pfizer, Amgen, IBM, Citi and Accenture.

There are 511 IDA client companies employing 60,793 people in permanent employment and a further 5,449 in part-time and contract positions in Dublin City and County. Dublin traditionally has been a centre for manufacturing industry for FDI but in recent years there has been a shift away from manufacturing (due to cost competitiveness) to more knowledge based higher value added projects in fund management, e-Commerce, Software and high-end back office. To support this development IDA is working closely with educational authorities.

As is evidenced with IDA Ireland investment announcements over the past number of years, a significant number of investments locate in Dublin each year. A typical example of the type of investment being announced for Dublin is the announcement on 18th February 2013 that Facebook, Inc. is to create more than 100 new jobs at its international HQ, Facebook Ireland, updating its status to 500 jobs in Dublin as it continues its current phase of expansion. The company currently employs around 400 people in a broad range of roles including user operations, advertising, sales, policy and safety.

Regional Aid

 408. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his position regarding the designation of the south east NUTS 3 region for regional state aid since the region clearly meets both the GDP and unemployment eligibility criteria as outlined under the European Commission's new guidelines on regional state aid for 2014-2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [46962/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Regional Aid Guidelines enable the State’s industrial development agencies to pay grants, at enhanced rates, to businesses in order to support new investment and new employment in productive projects in Ireland's most disadvantaged regions. This helps the convergence of these regions with the more advantaged regions of the Union. All such grants come from the exchequer, i.e. there is no EU or other external funding.

The new guidelines were adopted by the Commission on 19 June 2013, and will enter into force on 1 July 2014. As a result, the current guidelines that were due to expire at the end of this year are to be extended for a six month transition period.

During the Regional Aid Guideline process thus far, my Department has consulted relevant stakeholders including various Government Departments, the industrial development agencies, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Forfás, the Central Statistics Office, the Border Midland and Western Regional Assembly, the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly, and the eight Regional Authorities, and this consultation is ongoing.

It will not be possible to include all regions in the map. Instead, qualifying regions up to a maximum of 51.28% of the total population can be included. My officials are currently compiling the most up to date economic data for each region and county, including the South East NUTS 3 Region, in order to determine which areas will qualify for inclusion in a revised Regional Aid Map for Ireland. Relevant data includes comparative unemployment levels and GDP by county. Once this data has been compiled and analysed, qualifying regions will be included in the new map. This must be agreed by Government and submitted to the Commission by the end of June, 2014.

Budget 2014

 409. 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 if he will provide in tabular form the partial year and the full year monetary effect of his Department's Budget 2014 reductions to expenditure.  [47080/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As published in the 2014 Expenditure Report on 15th October 2013 the table below details the 2013 and 2014 Net Exchequer funding applicable to my Department.

- Total Capital* Current
Estimate 2013 €760.589m €451.50m €309.089m
Estimate 2014 €732.074m €440.50m €291.574m
Difference - €28.50m (-3.7%) -€ 11.00m -€ 17.515m


  * I am confident that the provision in the 2014 Expenditure Report will be enhanced by carryover of capital savings from 2013, which will be reflected in the Revised Estimates. This will ensure that the requisite supports are in place in my Department in 2014 to continue the work of turning around the jobs market and returning growth to the economy.

Community Employment Schemes

 410. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she intends to put all community employment schemes, rural social schemes and Tús schemes under the umberella of the county councils; if she will state when this will happen; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [45847/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department of Social Protection directs, funds, and manages a range of work placement and training initiatives in pursuit of Government policies, particularly Pathways to Work. Community employment is the primary scheme through which training associated work placements is delivered via a network of over 1,000 community and voluntary companies and bodies across the country. The rural social scheme is focused primarily at underemployed small farmers and Tús is a community work placement initiative for those out of work for 12 months or more. Both are delivered by local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta. The Deputy will be assured that I have not proposals to alter the delivery arrangements as suggested. The Deputy should note that the Department is constantly working to improve the effectiveness of all of its schemes in light of the demands to enhance outcomes for those who are unemployed. This may include looking at new and improved delivery structures in the future.

Social Insurance Issues

 411. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding people who are 66 years of age or older with regard to charging PRSI on rental income from 2014; if the person is exempt from this measure; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [46210/13]

 515. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton regarding PRSI liabilities on unearned income, as introduced in the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013, if this measure will require those with unearned income to make a self-assessed return to Revenue; if liabilities will be charged on gross or net income, for example, in the case of an accidental landlord with a buy-to-let property, where the rental income does not cover the cost of the outstanding mortgage, either interest only or interest and capital, whether their liabilities will be calculated on income or profits, if any exist; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [46286/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 411 and 515 together.

  Generally persons between 16 years and under pensionable age are liable to PRSI on all of their different forms of income.

  All workers pay PRSI on their earnings from employment or self-employment. In the case of individuals who have more than one income source, PRSI is generally paid on all forms of income. For example in the case of an employee who also has earned income from self-employment e.g. taxi driver, he pays PRSI as a self-employed contributor on the profits from the taxi driving plus on any other unearned income he might have e.g. rental income.

   Up to 2013 certain exemptions applied to specific groups. The removal of the exemption in relation to modified rate contributors with income from a trade or profession was introduced in the Social Welfare and Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013 and the removal of the exemption in respect of employed contributors and occupational pensioners under age 66 years whose only additional income is unearned income is being provided for in the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013.

  This means that, with effect from 1 January 2014, unearned income such as rental income, investment income, dividends and interest on deposits and savings of the individuals who were previously exempt, will be liable to PRSI at 4%, provided the person is a chargeable person in accordance with the Revenue definition.

  A chargeable person does not include a PAYE taxpayer (i) who does not have other income or (ii) who has an element of other insignificant income that is fully taxed through the Office of the Revenue Commissioners PAYE system (Revenue regard amounts not exceeding €3,174 as insignificant). Individuals with income exceeding €3,174 must pay and file under Revenue’s self-assessing system.

  This income will be chargeable at the Class K PRSI rate of 4%. This new PRSI charge will not give rise to any additional social insurance benefits. Individuals may however qualify separately for social insurance entitlements based on PRSI paid on other sources of income i.e. PRSI paid on income from their employment.

  In general the rules which apply to income for taxation purposes also apply to income for the purposes of charging PRSI. Therefore the income on which PRSI is applied will, in general, be the same as that for charging of tax.

PRSI is payable by any person over the age of 16 years and under pensionable age who is in employment or self-employment. Generally at pension age a person is no longer liable to PRSI on any   income regardless of its source. Accordingly those over pension age who have rental income will not be affected.

Social Insurance Rates

 412. 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 she will confirm the employer PRSI at the lower rate will return to 8.5% from January 2014 at the expiry of the special rate of 4.25%.  [46373/13]

 484. Deputy Lucinda Creighton Information on Lucinda Creighton Zoom on Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will consider reversing the increase to PRSI for lower paid workers from 4.25% to 8.5% if job growth stalls or unemployment for that grouping rises; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [45946/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 412 and 484 together.

The halving of the 8.5% employer rate to 4.25% was implemented on a 2½ year time limited basis, as part of the Jobs Initiative, to apply from 1 July 2011 until 31 December 2013. The 4.25% employer PRSI rate currently applied to employees with weekly earnings of €356 or less will therefore revert to the original 8.5% rate from 1 January 2014. This is already provided for in legislation.

Retaining the 4.25% rate in 2014 would reduce the expected PRSI yield to the Social Insurance Fund by €195 million in a full year. As the reversion of the Employer PRSI rate to 8.5% is provided for in legislation, it has already been built into the PRSI income base for 2014 and subsequent years.

Birth Certificate Issues

 413. Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton further to the 2010 report on Legal Aspects of Family Relationships recognising and recommending that the problem of presumption of paternity be addressed in legislation to allow the mother to make a declaration that their husband is not the father and that this would allow them to register the child, her plans to bring forward legislative provisions in relation to this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46456/13]

 415. Deputy Derek Nolan Information on Derek Nolan Zoom on Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the options open to a parent who cannot sign the birth certificate of their child because their partner is not legally separated from their former spouse. [47012/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 413 and 415 together.

Under section 46 of the Status of Children Act 1987, there is a presumption that the spouse is the father of a child. Section 22 of the Civil Registration Act, 2004 requires that, in order to support a declaration that the spouse is not the father of the child, it is required to have separation, divorce or nullity papers, a rebuttal from the spouse that he is not the father, or a court order that names a man other than the spouse as the father. In the case where the spouse is not contactable and in the absence of legal documentation a situation arises where the birth cannot be registered unless the spouse is registered as the father of the child.

The Department is examining ways to address this situation and is currently working with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government and the Department of Justice and Equality in relation to this issue.

Any proposed changes to the Civil Registration Act, 2004 will be contained in the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill which I hope to publish early next year.

Register of Solemnisers

 414. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if a person who operates a wedding business can become registered as a civil registrar or solemniser of marriages under the secular heading; the criteria that would apply in such a case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46997/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Civil Registration Act 2004, as amended by the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2012, outlines the categories of bodies and organisations, including secular bodies,that may apply for registration of persons on the Register of Solemnisers.

Section 45A of the Act states that a secular body must be in existence for at least five years, be an organised group of people who have secular, ethical and humanist beliefs in common, have a minimum of 50 people and meet on a regular basis. The body must have an entitlement to an exemption under section 207 or 208 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 and cannot have the making of profit as one of its main purposes.

In addition, there is a list of organisations which are deemed, for the purposes of the Bill, not to be secular bodies, including chambers of commerce, organisations that are political, sporting/athletic, trade union/representative in nature and bodies that promote purposes that are unlawful, are contrary to public policy or morality, in support of terrorism or terrorist activities or for the benefit of an organisation of which membership is unlawful.

Once a body or organisation has been approved by an tÁrd-Chláraitheoir to register persons on the Register of Solemnisers, it can nominate a person to solemnise marriages on its behalf. The body or organisation sign a certificate indicating that, in their opinion, the nominated person is a fit and proper person to solemnise a marriage and confirming that the nominee has been selected, trained and accredited by the secular body in accordance with their procedures.

A nominee can only be entered on the Register of Solemnisers following the approval of an tÁrd-Chláraitheoir.

Only employees of the Health Service Executive may be appointed as registrars.

  Question No. 415 answered with Question No. 413.

Family Income Supplement Eligibility

 416. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if a person who works part-time over 19 hours per week and is in receipt of partial jobseeker's allowance or benefit may successfully claim family income supplement; the reasons entitlement to family income supplement is based on the P60 for the past year in view of the many persons who may have their full-time working hours reduced during the year, losing a significant proportion of their income; if she intends to introduce more flexible arrangements in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [45610/13]

 417. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she has considered extending eligibility for family income supplement to families where parents cannot work by reason of disability or invalidity or in cases whereby one parent is in receipt of carer's allowance for the other parent; the number of families that would benefit from such an extension of the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45611/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 416 and 417 together.

  Family income supplement (FIS) is an in-work cash support for employees with families on low earnings. It tackles in-work poverty and provides an incentive to employment as opposed to welfare dependency. The estimated expenditure on FIS for 2013 is expected to be about €229 million in respect of some 42,000 families. An increased budget of €282 million has been provided for FIS in Budget 2014.

  To qualify for payment of FIS, a person must be engaged in full-time insurable employment which is expected to last for at least 3 months and be working for a minimum of 38 hours per fortnight or 19 hours per week. A couple may combine their hours of employment to meet the qualification criteria. For low income workers with less than the minimum hours of employment for FIS and working on a casual basis up to and including 3 days per week, jobseeker’s schemes provide in-work income support through daily disregards and tapered withdrawal of payments.

  Current Social Welfare legislation provides that FIS and jobseekers benefit/allowance cannot be paid to a person in respect of the same period. However, a person in receipt of FIS   whose work pattern changes can collect jobseekers benefit/allowance instead of their FIS for weeks where they are out of work, if this is financially more beneficial to them. In this situation payment of FIS is suspended for the weeks the person is claiming jobseekers benefit/allowance. The FIS payment resumes again for the weeks that the person is working. The person must continue to satisfy the condition of working at least 19 hours per week or 38 hours per fortnight to avail of this arrangement.

  A P60 is one of a number of documents required in order to determine average assessable earnings. It is normal practice to look at an applicant’s and a spouse/civil partner/cohabitant’s earnings over a long period of time from their P60. However, if the applicant/spouse/civil partner/cohabitant have only recently commenced or changed employment or had a change to the conditions of their employment, such as reduced hours, average assessable earnings would normally be calculated on the earnings since the relevant conditions changed.

  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. An 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 in providing an incentive to low-paid workers with families to avail of employment opportunities.

  Persons who cannot work by reason of disability or invalidity are not eligible for this scheme as they are not engaged in full-time remunerative employment as an employee. However, once FIS has been granted, a claimant can claim illness benefit for up to 6 weeks, and it does not affect their entitlement. If a person is absent from work through illness for more than 6 weeks, payment of FIS is suspended until they return to work or until their FIS award period expires. Similarly persons in receipt of carer’s allowance are not eligible for FIS as they do not fulfil the employment condition but instead   provide full time care and attention for another person or persons. I have no plans to provide for the overlapping of these payments with FIS.

  I established an Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare, to recommend cost-effective solutions as to how employment disincentives can be improved and better poverty outcomes can be achieved, particularly child poverty outcomes. The Group is currently considering in-work supports and the interaction of the tax and social welfare systems, and I look forward to receiving the final report and subsequent public discussion of its recommendations.

Budget 2014

 418. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of persons in County Donegal that will be affected by the changes announced in Budget 2014 in relation to the social welfare payments for the under 25's; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [45612/13]

 435. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the research produced or commissioned by her Department that informed the reduction in jobseeker's allowance to persons aged between 22 and 25.  [45758/13]

 436. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the advice or opinion given by the European Commission on the reduction in jobseeker's allowance payments to the 22 to 25 year olds in Budget 2014.  [45759/13]

 437. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of jobseeker's allowance claimants that her Department estimated will be affected by the changes to jobseeker's allowance for the 22 to 25 age group in Budget 2014 each year for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.  [45760/13]

 442. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the estimated savings from the decision to reduce jobseekers' allowance for young unemployed persons aged 23-24 in 2014; the basis for calculation of those savings; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [45789/13]

 443. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the estimated savings from the decision to reduce jobseekers' allowance for young unemployed person's aged 25 in 2014; the basis for calculation of those savings; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [45790/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 418, 435 to 437, inclusive, 442 and 443 together.

  As part of the Budget package this year changes have been made to the job seekers scheme for job seekers under 26 years of age. These changes are expected to deliver estimated savings of approximately €32 million in 2014 or €72m in a full year. It is my intention to incentivise young jobseeker’s allowance recipients to avail of education and training opportunities and to minimise the risk of them becoming welfare dependent from a young age. Such rates in respect of younger jobseekers were first introduced in 2009.

  By extending the €100 jobseeker’s allowance rate to ages 22, 23 and 24 the changes provide that claimants in this age bracket will be €60 better off if they engage in education or training such as the back to education programme as they will then receive €160 per week. Persons aged 25, had previously been subject to no financial incentive measure, will now receive €144 per week. These individuals will generally be €16 better off if they engage in education or training as they will now receive €160 per week.

  The decision to reduce the amount of jobseeker’s allowance payable to young jobseekers was made on foot of on-going consideration of unemployment and activation policy by Government. The changes are targeted measures aimed at protecting young people from welfare dependency.

  I believe that it is necessary to provide young jobseekers with a strong financial incentive to engage in education or training or to take up employment. If they do not improve their skills, it will be much more difficult for them to avail of job opportunities as the economy recovers and they are at risk of becoming long term unemployed from a young age.

  Under the new economic governance rules each Member State must submit the following year's budget to the EU Commission in October. The EU Commission will then publish an opinion no later than 30th November. The Department of Finance would have submitted a report to the Commission and to date the European Commission has not published their opinion in relation to Ireland’s Budget 2014 package.

  However, it should be noted that jobseeker’s allowance is a special non-contributory benefit for the purposes of EU Regulations. This status allows jobseeker’s allowance to be paid exclusively under domestic legislation and only in the country of residence.    

  In preparation for the forthcoming implementation of the Youth Guarantee, Budget 2014 contained an additional €46 million to support a number of initiatives aimed at young people. These include;

  - reducing the threshold (in terms of duration of unemployment) for JobsPlus eligibility from 12 months – to 6 months or less – in the case of young people;

  - an additional intake of 1,500 young people on to the very successful JobBridge scheme;

  - ensuring that 1,000 places on the Tús scheme are targeted at young people;

  - developing a pilot programme to support young unemployed people to take up opportunities under schemes such as Your First EURES Job; and

  - ring-fencing a minimum of 2,000 training places for under-25s by the Department of Education and Skills, under a follow-up to the successful Momentum programme that operated in 2013, with income support for participants being provided by my Department; and

  - Furthermore the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation will invest in the region of €2.5m next year in making funds available to young entrepreneurs via Micro finance Ireland and other business start-up schemes.

  These measures are in addition to the significant existing spend of approximately €170 million per annum on employment, training and further education programmes for young people.

  The changes to the jobseeker’s allowance scheme are due to take effect from 15 January 2014. It is not possible to determine, on a county by county basis, the numbers of claimants who will be affected. However, the table below illustrates the estimated number of recipients affected by the change to the jobseeker’s allowance scheme in 2014, 2015, 2016 and in a full year;

Year Estimated recipients affected
2014 13,767
2015 22,756
2016 28,193
Full year 31,577

Budget 2014

 419. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of persons in County Donegal who will no longer be eligible for the telephone allowance after the changes announced in Budget 2014; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [45613/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton There are currently in excess of 395,000 customers eligible for the telephone allowance with a total estimated cost in 2013 of €48 million. The cost of the telephone allowance scheme has risen each year and the number of eligible customers has increased very significantly. In 2007 there were some 316,000 people receiving the Telephone Allowance compared to almost 396,000 at the end of September this year, an increase of 25%. Each year almost 10,000 extra customers become eligible for the allowance because of the increased number of pension recipients. My overall concern in recent Budgets has been to protect the primary social welfare rates in the face of increasing numbers of recipients. This is particularly relevant in the context of older people. As a consequence, difficult choices had to be made in relation to the continuation of some secondary benefits. The nature of the telephone market has been transformed since the introduction of the allowance in 1978 with several companies now providing a range of good value rates and bundled services including television, broadband and telephone and pay-as-you-go mobiles.

There are currently 17,171 customers in Co. Donegal in receipt of the telephone allowance either by way of a direct credit on their bill or by way of cash payment and the allowance will be discontinued with effect from 1 January, 2014.

  Question No. 420 withdrawn.

Household Benefits Scheme

 421. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of persons in receipt of the telephone allowance, as part of their household benefits package; and the number who will be able to continue to use their personal alarms that require a telephone line when this package is withdrawn.  [45686/13]

 499. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the process that must be followed by her Department to give effect to changes in the household benefits package announced in Budget 2014; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [46068/13]

 504. Deputy Lucinda Creighton Information on Lucinda Creighton Zoom on Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her views on the impact of the proposed changes in the social welfare and pensions Bill (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [46162/13]

 519. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her plans to retain the household benefits package in future budgets; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46325/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 421, 499, 504 and 519 together.

The overall concern of the Government in this and previous budgets has been to protect the primary weekly social welfare rates. Maintaining the rate of the State pension and other core payments is critical in relation to protecting people from poverty. To allow us to protect these core payments, we have had to look very carefully at other additional payments. The cost of the telephone allowance scheme had risen each year with the number of eligible customers also increasing significantly. In 2007 there were some 316,000 people receiving the Telephone Allowance compared to almost 396,000 at the end of September this year, an increase of 25%. Each year almost 10,000 extra customers become eligible for the allowance because of the increased number of pension recipients.

I am keenly aware of the impact on the Department’s customers and particularly those who are living alone. While we are ending the telephone allowance we have been able to keep at the same rates the other elements of the household benefits package, including the free electricity/gas allowance and the free television licence. We have also retained the fuel allowance, free travel and the living alone increase. I am not in a position at this time to make any commitments in relation to future budgets.

Of course it is important to be aware that Ireland’s pensioners as a group have the lowest consistent poverty rate and, as a group compared to the rest of the population, are least likely to be at risk of poverty - pointing to the adequacy and importance of the State pension. Between 2004 and 2011, consistent poverty for older people (those over 65) fell from 3.3% to 1.9%. The ‘at risk of poverty’ rate for people in that age group also reduced from 27.1% to 9.7% over the same period.

The monthly allowances under the household benefits package are a contribution towards the cost of services; they are not intended to meet those costs in full. The ending of the telephone allowance of €9.50 per month (or about €2.20 per week) will not result in the automatic removal of any landline service linked to a personal alarm. Indeed, since the Budget announcement, I am aware that one telephone company has advertised that they will cover the value of the allowance. I would hope that other telephone companies will consider this.

The telephone allowance was introduced at a time when telephones were expensive and uncommon and a landline service was the only option available to the customer. The market has changed enormously since the introduction of the allowance, with several companies providing a range of services and rates with bundled services including television, telephone and broadband and pay-as-you-go mobiles. There are also personal security services that use mobile technology rather than land lines.

The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government operates the seniors alert scheme which provides grant support for the supply of equipment such as personal alarms, smoke detectors and security lighting to enable older people without sufficient means to continue to live securely in their homes. The budget allocation for 2013 was €2.35 million. There has been no reduction in this funding in Budget 2014.

As regards the process to give effect to the changes, the household benefits package is an administrative scheme under the authority of the Minister for Social Protection. It is administered by officials in my Department on the basis of publicly available operational guidelines. Following the Government decision as announced in the Budget, my Department amended the operational guidelines for the household benefit package. All information regarding the scheme has been updated on the Department’s website and the Citizens Information website and a frequently asked questions section has been provided. The Department’s information booklets have also been updated. The telecommunications companies were advised of the changes and community and social partners were briefed on the evening of the Budget. My officials are currently working on the information technology changes which will be required to effect the changes.


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