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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 112 to 128
 Header Item International Agreements
 Header Item Mortgage Arrears Rate
 Header Item Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears
 Header Item Residential Institutions Redress Scheme Issues
 Header Item Bullying in Schools
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Equipment Grants
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item School Patronage
 Header Item School Transport Provision
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Services Provision
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Applications
 Header Item Teacher Redeployment
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Teacher Recruitment

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 820 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 112 to 128

International Agreements

 112. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if a cost benefit analysis has been undertaken by his Department on the impact of Ireland signing the Antarctic treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [48320/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The question of Ireland’s signature and ratification of the Antarctic Treaty and related agreements has been examined in some detail by the relevant Departments and Offices concerned. The Department of Finance has not been involved in this process and has not carried out any cost benefit analysis to assess the impact of Ireland’s signing of the Treaty.

Mortgage Arrears Rate

 113. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the number of persons in County Meath in mortgage arrears; the extent, in months, to which this is the case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48359/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The Central Bank commenced the quarterly publication of mortgage and mortgage arrears data from the period ending September 2009. The most recent available data, which is for the quarter ending June 2013, indicates that 12.7% of PDH mortgages and 20.4% of BTL mortgages were in arrears of more than 90 days. The full range of published mortgage arrears data is available on the Central Bank’s website, www.centralbank.ie.  However, the Central Bank has advised me that it does not publish a geographical breakdown of its quarterly mortgage arrears statistics.

Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears

 114. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if his attention has been drawn to the concerns regarding the revised code of conduct on mortgage arrears which many borrowers and non-governmental organisations feel is weighted more heavily in favour of financial institutions; and the supports available to genuine borrowers in arrears, particularly arrears on mortgages for private principal residences. [48378/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The Central Bank’s Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) is a statutory Code issued under Section 117 of the Central Bank Act 1989 and lenders are required to comply with the CCMA as a matter of law.

  The Deputy will be aware that the Central Bank’s revised CCMA came into effect from 1 July 2013. This followed an extensive consultation process where over 200 submissions were received from consumers, consumer representative bodies, industry and other representative bodies. A Feedback Document and Consumer Guide to the CCMA have also been published on the Central Bank’s website which can be accessed at www.centralbank.ie.

  I am informed by the Central Bank that the CCMA provides an integrated and cohesive package of consumer protection measures for borrowers facing or in mortgage arrears. It seeks to deliver on the following principles, to:

- ensure appropriate resolution of each borrower’s arrears situation;

- ensure that lenders deal with borrowers in a fair and transparent manner;

- support and facilitate meaningful engagement between lenders and borrowers; and

- ensure borrower awareness of the benefits of co-operating with their lender, and the consequences of not co-operating.

  The main changes to the CCMA include:

- Requirement on lenders to have a communications policy, which must be ratified at Board level, that will protect borrowers against unnecessarily frequent contacts and harassment, while ensuring that lenders can make the necessary contact to progress resolution of arrears cases;

- A new requirement for lenders to provide the Standard Financial Statement (SFS) at the earliest opportunity, and to offer assistance to borrowers with completing it. In addition, lenders can now agree with the borrower to put a temporary arrangement in place to prevent the arrears from worsening while the full SFS is being completed and assessed;

- Where there is no other sustainable option available, lenders can now offer an arrangement to distressed mortgage holders which provides for the removal of the tracker rate, but only as a last resort, where the only alternative option is repossession of the home. The arrangement offered must be a long-term, sustainable solution that is affordable for the borrower;

- Co-operating borrowers must now be given at least eight months from the date arrears first arise before legal action can commence and at the end of the MARP process, lenders will be required to provide a three-month notice period to allow co-operating borrowers time to consider their options, such as voluntary surrender or an arrangement under the Personal Insolvency Act, before legal action can commence;

- Greater clarity around when a borrower is considered to be co-operating and, in recognition of the serious impact of being classified as not cooperating, a new requirement that lenders must provide a warning letter giving at least 20 business days’ notice to the borrower, outlining the implications of being classified as not cooperating and providing specific information on how to avoid this classification;

  Transparency for borrowers has been improved through increased information requirements for lenders, including more detail in the MARP booklet on:

- how the alternative repayment arrangements offered by the lender work and their key features;

- explanations of other options such as voluntary surrender or trading down;

- explanations of the meaning and implications of not co-operating;

- summary information on a lender’s potential use of confidentiality agreements;

- information on the borrower’s right of appeal;

- a link to keepingyourhome.ie, where borrowers can get further information and assistance; and

- summary of the lender’s communications policy.

  The Central Bank has advised that, where a borrower believes that their lender has not complied with or in any way disregarded the Central Bank’s Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, he/she may make a complaint to their lender. The lender must seek to resolve the borrower’s complaint in line with the complaints handling process set out in provisions 10.7 to 10.12 of the Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Code.

  Each lender must also have an appeals process in place to enable a borrower to appeal in relation to a decision of the lender, including:

a) Where an alternative repayment arrangement is offered by a lender and the borrower is not willing to enter into the alternative repayment arrangement;

b) Where a lender declines to offer an alternative repayment arrangement to a borrower; and

c) Where a lender classifies a borrower as not co-operating.

  For this purpose, each lender must establish an Appeals Board to consider and determine any such appeals submitted by borrowers.

  If the borrower remains dissatisfied following the outcome from the complaints or appeals process, he/she may then refer the matter to the Financial Services Ombudsman who deals independently with unresolved complaints from consumers about their individual dealings with all financial service providers.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme Issues

 115. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the steps he has taken to ensure anybody accused of sexual abuse by victims who have received compensation from the redress board do not have access to children. [47892/13]

 116. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the number of persons who have been accused by victims who have received compensation from the redress board of sexual abuse. [47893/13]

 117. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the steps taken following an accusation by victims of sexual abuse who have received compensation from the redress board. [47894/13]

 118. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn in the event of a victim of sexual abuse receiving compensation from the redress board, if any conditions are attached to the compensation; and if victims are allowed to publicly tell their story. [47895/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 115 to 118, inclusive, together.

  The Redress Board was established under the Residential Institutions Redress Act, 2002 to make financial awards to those, who as children were resident in scheduled institutions and who have or have had injuries that are consistent with abuse received while resident in the institutions. Abuse is defined in the 2002 Act and includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and any other act or omission which results in serious impairment of the physical or mental health or development of the child or serious adverse effects on the child's behaviour or welfare. At the end of October, the Redress Board had finalised 15,966 applications, resulting in 14,934 awards. The Redress Board does not have statistical information on the number of allegations of sexual abuse contained in the applications considered or the number of persons against whom allegations were made.   

In accordance with section 13(6) of the 2002 Act, an applicant who accepts an award from the Redress Board must agree in writing to waive any right of action that they may have against the State or a contributing congregation. Section 13 also allows for the payment of awards in instalments.

  Section 28(6) of the 2002 Act provides that a person shall not publish any information concerning an application or an award made under the Act that refers to any other person, including an applicant, relevant person or institution by name or which could reasonably lead to the identification of any other person, including an applicant, a relevant person or an institution referred to in an application made under the Act.

The 2002 Act provides that applications coming before the Redress Board are treated in a confidential manner. This confidentiality is required in order to protect the identity of applicants and because the Redress Board, when considering an application, is not permitted to address any issue of fault or negligence arising out of the evidence given in an application and is not empowered to make a finding of fact relating to fault or negligence in relation to evidence submitted with an application. Section 28(5) of the 2002 Act does provide for the disclosure of information in certain circumstances to the Garda Síochána and to an appropriate person within the meaning of the Protections for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998.

  Following publication of the Ryan Report, An Garda Síochána established a dedicated phone line for persons who wished to provide information relating to criminal behaviour connected with what the report revealed. As of 22 October, 2013, 181 calls have been received on the Garda helpline. An Garda Síochána carried out investigations and submitted 15 investigation files to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The DPP directed no prosecution in the case of fourteen of them. The DPP directed a prosecution in one case. One additional investigation is nearing completion and will be the subject of submissions to the DPP.

Bullying in Schools

 119. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if, arising from the incidents of bullying reports, a procedure exists where his Department has a particular responsibility for a structured response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48305/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy will be aware that I recently published new anti-bullying procedures for all primary and post primary schools. These new procedures have been developed following consultation with the relevant education partners and replace guidelines that were issued to schools in 1993.

The procedures are designed to give direction and guidance to school authorities and school personnel in preventing and tackling school-based bullying behaviour amongst its pupils. They include specific requirements in relation to the use of prevention and education strategies and the consistent investigation, follow up and recording of bullying behaviour.

There is no requirement that schools report incidents of bullying behaviour to my Department. The procedures however include important new oversight arrangements that involve the school Principal reporting regularly to the Board of Management and a requirement for the Board to undertake an annual review of the school's anti-bullying policy and its implementation. Confirmation that the annual review has been completed must be provided to the parents association and published on the school website.

All schools are now required to immediately commence the necessary arrangements for developing and formally adopting an anti-bullying policy that fully complies with the requirements of the new procedures. This is expected to be completed by each school as early as possible in the 2013/14 school year but in any event by no later than the end of the second term of the 2013/14 school year.

Special Educational Needs Equipment Grants

 120. Deputy Brian Walsh Information on Brian Walsh Zoom on Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if an application for the provision of therapy beds for pupils with special needs by a school (details supplied) in County Galway will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47650/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Grant aid is available to primary and post primary schools to fund the purchase of furniture/equipment for educational purposes for special needs pupils. Changing benches are included in that category.

On the basis of the information submitted by the school authority the equipment that they requested grant aid for is outside the scope of aid provided by my Department. The school principal has been advised that an application for funding for additional changing benches would be considered. To date no such application has been received.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

 121. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if any changes have been made with respect to qualifying criteria in respect of higher education grants and in particular for applicants currently in receipt of one parent family payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47728/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The main financial support available to students attending higher education is my Department's Student Grant Scheme. Under the terms of the Student Grant Scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding including those which relate to nationality, residency, approved course, previous academic attainment and means. There was no change in the qualifying criteria for applicants in receipt of the one parent family payment in the Student Grant Scheme 2013.

School Patronage

 122. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if the patronage of the new Balbriggan second level school has been decided; and if not, when a decision will issue. [47799/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The New Schools Establishment Group recently submitted its report to me as part of the patronage determination process for the new post-primary schools due to open in 2015 and 2016. This includes the proposed new post-primary school for Balbriggan. I am considering the Report and I expect to be in a position to announce my decision shortly.

School Transport Provision

 123. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway, who is in final year in secondary school, has not been approved for school transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47820/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon Bus Éireann which operates the school transport scheme on behalf of my Department has advised that the family in question did not submit their payment details before the deadline date for payments. Unfortunately, by the time payment details were received the service was operating to capacity in that all of the seats had been allocated.

Special Educational Needs Services Provision

 124. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will review the special needs assistant supports provided to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; his views on whether the supports provided to date are adequate; the date on which additional supports will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47822/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports, including the allocation of Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools. The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of Special Education supports and the staffing resources available to my Department.

  All schools were advised to apply to the NCSE for resource teaching and SNA support for the 2013/14 school year by 15th March, 2013. The NCSE published details of all of their allocations for resource teaching and SNA support for the 2013/2014 school year in June of this year.

  The NCSE has also now published details of the additional SNA allocations which have been made to schools since the initial allocations were made to schools in June. The NCSE published details of these revised allocations on 21st October, 2013. These details are now available on the NCSE website, www.ncse.ie, and detail the allocations made for each school on a per county basis. The school referred to by the Deputy currently has 2 approved SNA posts.

  I wish to explain that the recruitment and deployment of SNAs within schools are matters for the individual Principal/Board of Management. SNAs should be deployed by the school in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated. It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised.

Schools can contact the NCSE if they have enrolled children who were not considered at the time that the revised SNA allocations were made to schools, or where they are seeking a revision to the quantum of SNA support which has been allocated to them. In general, a revision to SNA allocations will only be made in circumstances where schools have enrolled new pupils, or where schools can demonstrate that they do not have sufficient SNA posts to cater for the care needs of all of the qualifying children in their school.

  All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

 125. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the positon regarding a grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; when same will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47852/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) that in the case of the student referred to by the Deputy her application has been assessed and a letter informing her of the outcome will issue shortly.

Teacher Redeployment

 126. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his views regarding the appointment of teachers (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47897/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The core function of the redeployment arrangements is to facilitate the redeployment of all surplus permanent teachers to other schools that have vacancies. The redeployment of all surplus permanent teachers is key to the Department's ability to manage within its payroll budget and ceiling on teacher numbers. Thereafter, schools are required under the panel arrangements to fill permanent vacancies from supplementary panels comprised of eligible fixed-term (temporary/substitute) and part-time teachers.

The staffing and redeployment arrangements for all schools are published annually on the Department website. The arrangements for the current school year are set out in Circular 0013/2013 which is available on the website.

My Department has just recently published the arrangements for access to the supplementary panel for the 2014/15 school year. These arrangements are set out in Circular 0057/2013 which is available on the website.

Redeployment panels are drawn up on a diocesan basis for Catholic panels, diocesan/united diocesan basis for Church of Ireland panels and on a national basis for other patron bodies. The detail relating to numbers on individual redeployment panels is placed on the Department website when the panels are published each year. My Department updates the progress of the panels on the website on a regular basis.

Over the last five years approximately 2,500 surplus permanent teachers have been redeployed, an average of 500 each year. Over 4,500 fixed term (temporary/substitute) teachers were placed on supplementary panels during this period (2,800 of which were in the last 2 years).

Preparation for the staffing and redeployment process for the 2014/15 school year is currently underway in my Department. The size of the redeployment panels will not be known until early in 2014.

Departmental Expenditure

 127. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the reason that current net voted expenditure in his Department was €114 million behind profile at the end of October 2013; if he expects this underspend to continue to the end of 2013; if any unspent allocation will be available for any other programmes in 2013; if he anticipates that any underspend in 2013 will be greater than the level of cuts his Department made in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47910/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Net Voted Allocation for my Department's Vote in 2013 is €7.927 billion. In a Vote this size, it is not unusual for actual expenditure, at a given point in time, to be at variance with the profile of expenditure prepared at the beginning of the year. Net projected current expenditure of €6.186 billion at the end of October 2013, was running €114 million or 1.8% behind the profiled figure of €6.3 billion, mainly due to the following factors:

a) Superannuation payments were running €56 million (6%) behind profile, with teacher and VEC/IOT staff retirements being less than originally profiled. Based on superannuation payments to date, there could be a possible underspend in the region of €60 million at year-end on these subheads. The overall 2013 allocation for superannuation expenditure is €1,128 million;

b) Teacher/SNAs Payrolls were running €20 million (0.6%) behind the profiled figure of €3.07 billion;

c) Grants to Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) in respect of Student Support are running €17 million (6%) behind the profiled figure of €945 million. This is a timing issue, based on the levels of monies tranched to SUSI. It does not relate to the payment of grants to students. It will not result in an end-year underspend;

d) Grants to Universities and Institutes of Technology are running €19 million behind the profiled figure. This is a timing issue based on claims received from the Higher Education Authority to date. No end-year underspend is anticipated.

e) Expenditure on a range of other miscellaneous subheads is running €2 million behind profile.

zsAs indicated by me in the context of the announcement of Budget 2014, projected superannuation savings on the Education Vote are being offset against upward pressures in relation to final Redress payments to victims of institutional child abuse and additional provision for supporting children with special needs for the current academic year.

My Department is carefully monitoring all expenditure on my Vote as the year-end approaches and, with careful Vote management, I expect overall expenditure to come in on target.

Teacher Recruitment

 128. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide a timetable for the recruitment of new teachers as announced in budget 2014; and if he will consider the issue of qualified teachers being unable to complete their probationary period as part of the recruitment process.  [47915/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Teacher allocations are approved annually in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment. Preparation for the staffing and redeployment process for the 2014/15 school year is currently underway in my Department. The staffing arrangements for all schools for the 2014/15 school year will be published early in 2014. The Teaching Council has responsibility for induction and probation of both primary and post primary teachers. If a registered teacher is unable to complete the requirements of a registration condition including probation within the specified period, the teacher may apply to the Council for an extension to that period. The Teaching Council will be able to advise a teacher in relation to how to proceed should this become relevant to him or her.

In addition, a number of measures have been taken to alleviate difficulties for new teachers. Managerial authorities of schools have been directed to recruit unemployed teachers ahead of retired ones, in an effort to ease the difficulties for those who cannot find work in the profession. The Department of Social Protection's JobBridge National Internship Scheme can provide newly qualified teachers with opportunities to gain experience and to undertake the necessary teaching duties to complete the process of probation.


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