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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 227-251
 Header Item Driver Licences
 Header Item Visiting Teacher Service
 Header Item European Solidarity Corps
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education Data
 Header Item Child Care Services Data
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education Data
 Header Item Child Care Services Data
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education Data
 Header Item Departmental Staff Training
 Header Item Child and Family Agency Reports
 Header Item Local Improvement Scheme Administration
 Header Item Departmental Staff Training
 Header Item Social Welfare Schemes
 Header Item Defined Benefit Pension Schemes
 Header Item JobPath Programme
 Header Item Illness Benefit Payments
 Header Item Social Welfare Schemes Data
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits Data
 Header Item Departmental Staff Training
 Header Item Medical Aids and Appliances Applications
 Header Item Paternity Benefit Applications
 Header Item Working Family Payment Applications
 Header Item Disability Allowance Applications

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 968 No. 5

First Page Previous Page Page of 56 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 227-251

Driver Licences

 227. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross his plans to reinstate a facility (details supplied) in which driver licence services were previously provided in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19540/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross This is a matter for the Road Safety Authority. I have referred the question to the Authority for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response is not received within 10 days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Visiting Teacher Service

 228. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the estimated full year cost of restoring the visiting teacher service for Travellers to primary and post-primary schools. [19417/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone As the Deputy may be aware, the Visiting Teachers Service for Travellers was discontinued with effect from September 2011, in line with Department of Education and Skills policy on the phasing out of segregated Traveller provision.

The Department of Education and Skills have advised that the funding costs for the programme in the final full year of the programme in 2010 were €2,716,737.

European Solidarity Corps

 229. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the total Irish contribution to the European Solidarity Corps; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19560/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The European Solidarity Corps aims at enhancing the engagement of young people and organisations in solidarity activities which are of high quality and accessible to all young people, as a means to contribute to strengthening cohesion and solidarity in Europe, supporting communities and responding to unmet societal needs. A regulation for implementation of the European Solidarity Corps is currently under discussion at EU level, the first trilogue took place on 24 April 2018.

Ireland has contributed to the development of the European Solidarity Corps through its work in the Youth Working Party and continuing engagement with other member states. I was delighted to agree, along with my colleagues in the Council of Ministers, the General Approach which forms the basis of discussions with the Parliament. During these discussions a number of aspects will be agreed including the budget for the programme. Therefore the total Irish contribution to the European Solidarity Corps is not yet available.

Early Childhood Care and Education Data

 230. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the percentage of children enrolled in the ECCE programme that will be eligible to avail of the next programme year (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19376/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone There are currently 67,052 children enrolled in ECCE for this programme year, 2017/18, who will be eligible for the next programme year, 2018/19. This represents 57% of the 117,152 children currently registered on the ECCE scheme for 2017-18.

From September 2018, all children meeting the minimum age requirement of 2 years and 8 months will be eligible for a full two programme years on the ECCE scheme (or free preschool as it has become known). This measure refines the development introduced last year, whereby three intake dates were adopted, and will increase the duration of each registered child on ECCE from a current average of 61 weeks, to a potential duration of 76 weeks (two programme years). This further enhancement delivers fully on a commitment in the Programme for a partnership Government that is good for children, families and Early Years providers.

The number of entry points will revert to one at the beginning of the next programme year (September 2018). One enrolment period at the start of the pre-school year will help streamline the administration process and will make it easier for childcare providers to operate and budget for the programme year. This will also make it simpler for parents to secure places on the ECCE programme for their children.

Child Care Services Data

 231. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the number of households that use child minders for part or all of their childcare needs. [19377/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone As the vast majority of childminders are currently unregistered, I can provide estimates of the number of individuals involved in childminding, but not concrete figures. According to CSO estimates, 10% of children in Ireland from infancy to 12 years of age receive childcare services from childminders, au pairs or nannies, often in combination with other forms of parental and non-parental childcare. This equates to approximately 88,000 children.

On 26 March this year, Childminding Ireland launched their report 'Pathway to a Quality Support and Assurance System for Childminding in Ireland ', which contains a number of recommendations drawn up by a working group with representation from across the sector. My Department is giving this report careful consideration and will devise an action plan for childminders which will guide the future policy direction for childminders in the sector.

Early Childhood Care and Education Data

 232. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the percentage of children who availed of ECCE hours in two programme years (details supplied). [19378/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I understand, following clarification received, that the Deputy's question relates to the number of children who have availed of ECCE in more than one programme year.

  When ECCE was introduced in 2010 it was only for one programme year or 38 weeks. ECCE was extended in 2016 when, on average, children benefitted from 61 weeks. The number of children that have availed of more than one programme year since the extension in 2016 are as follows:

Academic Years Unique Children
2015-16/2016-17 314
2016-17/2017-18 68,356
Grand Total 68,670

Child Care Services Data

 233. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the number of households availing of each subsidy level (details supplied) of the childcare subsidy scheme in tabular form. [19379/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone In September 2017 as part of the Government policy to make childcare more affordable, I introduced a universal childcare subvention payment of up to €20 per week for families using eligible childcare providers for the care of children aged from 6 months to the first eligible point of entry to the Early Childhood Care and Education scheme (ECCE). The Universal scheme is administered through the current Community Childcare Subvention scheme (CCS).

  The maximum weekly universal childcare subsidy is €20. As CCS subsidies are currently paid according to session type, i.e. full-time, part-time, sessional, half-sessional, this maximum weekly universal subsidy rate of €20 will be paid on a pro-rata basis according to session type.

 

  Table Universal Subsidy (CCSU) rates

UCS Session Type Weekly Subsidy
Full-time (i.e. 5 hours plus per day) €20
Part-time (i.e. 3:31 to 5 hours per day) €10
Sessional (i.e. 2:16 to 3:30 per day) €7
Half-sessional (i.e. 1:15 to 2:15 per day) €3.50


  While information on the number of households availing of the Universal Subsidy (CCSU) is not readily available, the following table displays the most recent data available outlining the number of unique children with one registration only in the scheme under each session type for 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 days, and the value of each registration. The table also includes the total number of unique children availing of the subsidy and the total cost of the scheme.

  Full Day Full Day Part-time Part-time Sessional Sessional
No. of Days Unique Children Approved value of Sessions Unique Children Approved value of Sessions Unique Children Approved value of Sessions
5 10307 €9,026,620.00 694 €288,290.00 260 €63,000.00
4 2810 €1,908,240.00 182 €61,936.00 65 €12,493.60
3 3619 €1,840,560.00 516 €126,702.00 400 €59,026.80
2 2202 €740,632.00 682 €108,980.00 648 €62,526.80
1 360 €60,396.00 94 €7,384.00 87 €4,393.20
Grand Total 19298 €13,576,448.00 2168 €593,292.00 1460 €201,440.40


Table Cont

  Half Session Half Session Total Total
No. of Days Unique Children Approved value of Sessions Unique Children Approved value of Sessions
5 14 €1,764.00 11275 €9,379,674.00
4 2 €184.80 3059 €1,982,854.40
3 11 €785.40 4546 €2,027,074.20
2 24 €1,115.80 3556 €913,254.60
1 3 €68.60 544 €72,241.80
Grand Total 54 €3,918.60 22980 €14,375,099.00


This table reflects registrations for unique children on a snapshot of one day (April 30 2018). The scheme runs for 52 weeks in the programme year and therefore the table may not be a complete reflection of the numbers of children availing of the scheme for the full programme year 2017/2018.

Early Childhood Care and Education Data

 234. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the estimated full year cost of one child's place in the ECCE programme. [19380/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The ECCE programme operates over a 38 week programme year. Currently service providers receive €64.50 per child per week. If a service has been approved for higher capitation the weekly payment increases to €75 per child. Pre-school settings employing an Inclusion Co-ordinator under the LINC programme will receive an increase of €2 per child per week in the rate of ECCE capitation payable.

Higher Capitation is paid for individual ECCE Sessions where the ECCE Room leader holds a qualification recognised as meeting the minimum contract requirements for ECCE. LINC will be paid to settings employing an Inclusion Co-ordinator who has graduated from the LINC Programme and has agreed to take on the role and responsibilities of an Inclusion Co-ordinator.

The ECCE capitation paid to Early Years providers will increase by 7% in September 2018. This increase will result in the following:

- Standard rate – increases from €64.50 to €69

- Higher rate – increase from €75 to €80.25

Therefore, for the current programme year, 2017/18, the full year cost of a child attending ECCE 5 days per week for 38 weeks in a standard capitation room is €2,451. This increases to €2,850 per child in a higher capitation room.

In addition, my Department have committed to the continuation of the Programme Support Payment in 2018. We are currently working with Pobal to finalise the details of how these funds will be administered to childcare providers. As soon as there is further information in this regard providers will be alerted via PIP. There will likely be an announcement on this in the coming weeks. This funding is to acknowledge the administrative work that childcare providers undertake in order to provide the ECCE programme.

Departmental Staff Training

 235. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the amount spent on facilitating departmental members' attendance at social media training conferences or other external events. [19391/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone In relation to my Department I can confirm that the costs for the provision of social media training for each year from 2011 - 2018 are set out in the following table:

Year Costs incurred by Department Social Media Training Delivered Number of Staff Attended Social Media training conferences or other external events
2011 Nil Nil Nil Nil
2012 Nil Nil Nil Nil
2013 Nil Nil Nil Nil
2014 Nil Nil Nil Nil
2015 Nil Nil Nil Nil
2016 Nil Nil Nil Nil
2017 €950 Social Media for Business 2 Nil
2018 €495 Social Media for Business 1 Nil

Child and Family Agency Reports

 236. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if her attention has been drawn to the long waiting times that still exist for Tusla to furnish section 20 reports requested by the District Courts in County Donegal despite assurances (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19469/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone As this is an operational matter, I have written to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, and requested that they contact the Deputy directly.

As I noted previously, under section 20 of the Child Care Act 1991, a Court, may of its own volition or on the application of any person, adjourn proceedings and direct the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, to report on the safety, care, health or welfare of a child involved in the proceedings. The subsequent report will advise and give reasons should an application for a care or supervision order be recommended, and an indication of what other services the child may need. Section 20 requests go to the local areas and are allocated according to the principles of caseload management.

Local Improvement Scheme Administration

 237. Deputy Tony McLoughlin Information on Tony McLoughlin Zoom on Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the way in which his Department allocates funding to counties under the local improvement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19322/18]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I reintroduced dedicated funding for the Local Improvement Scheme in September 2017 after a gap of 8 years. This scheme is a lifeline for people living in rural areas because it directly improves their access to and from their family homes and farms, and has made a huge difference for rural communities around the country.

  I launched the 2018 Local Improvement Scheme in February of this year, with an indicative allocation of €10.8 million.

  County allocations under the 2018 LIS programme were calculated taking into consideration the funding available and the size of the county. In addition, a minimum allocation of €250,000 and a maximum cap of €1 million were applied in the distribution model.

The selection of the roads to benefit under the scheme is entirely a matter for the relevant County Councils to decide, in line with the scheme criteria. I have now published the details of over 400 roads selected by County Councils for improvement works this year on the basis of their 2018 allocations. Details of the roads in question are available on my Department's website at:

http://drcd.gov.ie/about/rural/local-improvement-scheme/.

Departmental Staff Training

 238. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the amount spent on facilitating departmental members' attendance at social media training conferences or other external events. [19403/18]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring My Department officials have not attended any social media training conferences or received any training in social media since the date the Department was established, on 19 July 2017.

Social Welfare Schemes

 239. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the number of visual artists and writers to date who have availed of the pilot jobseeker's exemption scheme that was announced on 12 June 2017; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9886/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty A pilot initiative to assist self-employed visual artists and writers who apply to my Department for jobseeker’s allowance was launched in June 2017. The initiative, which is a commitment under the Creative Ireland Programme, was a collaboration between my Department and what is now the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, with the support and advice of the Arts Council. My department also consulted with the artists and writers professional bodies. It was decided that the initiative would apply to members of Visual Arts Ireland (VAI) and the Irish Writers Centre (IWC).   A key feature of the initiative is that it acknowledges the status of self-employed artists and writers and gives them a 12 month window to focus on building up their work before they become subject to labour market activation. Therefore, they are exempted from labour market activation, which is mandatory for most recipients of a jobseekers payment, for a period of twelve months. Naturally there are safeguards in place to ensure that claimants are professional visual artists and writers and, in addition, applicants must satisfy all of the usual qualifying conditions for jobseeker’s allowance.

  There were 42 artists and writers on the scheme in April. The figure of 42 does not imply that there are only 42 professional visual artists or writers in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance. It simply means that there are 42 recipients of the payment who are availing of the pilot arrangements and therefore they are not party to the activation process for 12 months. A total of 54 artists and writers have availed of the scheme to date.

  The general population of jobseeker’s allowance recipients is not classified as to their occupation or profession so it is not possible to say how many writers or visual artists are in receipt of jobseekers payment. The arrangements for the exemption scheme will be reviewed later this year.

Defined Benefit Pension Schemes

 240. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if proposals that will protect workers in defined benefit schemes from attempts by their employers to abandon such schemes will be brought forward; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19324/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Roadmap for Pensions Reform, which was published recently by the Government, details a number of specific measures that will modernise our pension system. It sets out under Strand 4, ‘Measures to Support the Operation of Defined Benefit Schemes’, that the Government is committed to advancing the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017 to respond to the ongoing difficulties in DB schemes and to increase protections for members as well encouraging employers to ensure that schemes are well funded and managed.

As the Deputy is aware, the General Scheme of the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2017 (now the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017), was published in May 2017 and contained a number of key measures relating to DB pension schemes. These proposed provisions will ensure that an employer cannot “walk away” at short notice from the pension scheme it is supporting. They seek a middle road between the current position where employers can abandon DB schemes and full and immediate debt on employer provisions. The measures will act to support existing provisions in the Pensions Act and will provide for further protection for scheme members’ benefits and enhance employer responsibilities for their schemes.

These provisions are quite technical and complex. Work to finalise them is at an advanced stage and I hope to be in position to bring forward the amendments at Committee Stage at the end of May or early June. With the co-operation of the House, the Government intends to pass this legislation before the summer recess.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

JobPath Programme

 241. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if a jobseeker that refuses to sign a PPP with a JobPath provider such as Seetec and so on will not automatically face sanctions from her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19325/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Penalty rates are a legal provision within the Jobseeker schemes to ensure that the Department can achieve compliance with Government Activation Policy as stated in Pathways to Work. Legislation provides that sanctions/penalties in the form of reduced payments may be imposed by the Department’s Deciding Officers where recipients of jobseeker payments fail, without good cause, to comply with activation measures.

Activation measures include the requirement to attend group information meetings, and/or individual meetings for the purpose of assessing a person’s education, training or development needs, and/or availing of suitable education, training or development opportunities, or specified employment programmes, which are considered appropriate to a person’s circumstances. Reduced rates are only applied where a jobseeker fails, without good cause, to engage as requested with the Department’s employment services including contracted services, having received at least two warnings.

Refusal to sign a Personal Progression Plan would not automatically lead to the application of a penalty rate. Refusal to sign and also failure to agree an action plan with their Case Officer/JobPath Provider, without good cause, will incur a penalty rate as outlined in SW legislation. The Penalty Rate may be lifted at any time if the person engages in the activation process.

The Jobseeker can appeal the Deciding Officer’s decision for reduced rate penalties and for a 9 week disqualification, through the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO).

Illness Benefit Payments

 242. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the status of an illness benefit payment for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19345/18]

Minister of State at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Illness Benefit claims are subject to ongoing medical review to ensure that the claimants continue to satisfy the medical eligibility requirements of the scheme.

The person concerned has been in receipt of illness benefit since 29th August 2006 and, in accordance with routine practice in my Department, her case was selected for review. The person concerned was medically examined on 6 April 2018 by a departmental medical assessor who formed the opinion that she no longer satisfied the medical conditions for receipt of illness benefit. My officials then notified her of this and invited her to submit any further information or medical evidence in support of her case within 21 days. On receipt of this information and/or evidence a Deciding Officer would examine her case taking into account all the information available including the medical assessor’s opinion and any further information or medical evidence she submits. The person concerned should ensure that she makes every effort to engage with the Department within the 21 days.

A Deciding Officer will then make a decision on her continued eligibility for illness benefit. She will be advised of the decision in due course and given the right of appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office if she is not satisfied with the decision.

Social Welfare Schemes Data

 243. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the estimated first year and full year cost of increasing entitlement under the living alone allowance scheme by €5; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19357/18]

 244. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the estimated first year and full year cost of increasing entitlement under the fuel allowance scheme by €5; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19358/18]

 245. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the estimated first year and full year cost of increasing the entitlement under the disability allowance scheme by €20 per week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19359/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I propose to take Questions Nos. 243 to 245, inclusive, together.

  The first and full year cost of increasing the rate of Living Alone Allowance by €5 per week is estimated to be €52.2 million in 2019.

  The first and full year cost of increasing the rate of Fuel Allowance by €5 per week is estimated to be €49.6 million in 2019.

  The first and full year cost of increasing the rate of Disability Allowance by €20 per week is estimated to be €142.2 million in 2019. This cost is for the personal rate of payment only and does not include a proportionate increase for qualified adults.

  The costs shown above are on a full year basis and are based on the estimated number of recipients in 2018. It should be noted that these costings are subject to change in the context of emerging trends and associated revision of the estimated numbers of recipients for 2019.

Social Welfare Benefits Data

 246. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the estimated first year cost and full year cost of increasing paternity leave by one, two, three and four weeks, respectively. [19360/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016 which was enacted in July 2016 introduced a new scheme of paternity leave and an associated social welfare payment of paternity benefit from the 1st September 2016. It is paid for 2 weeks and is available for any child born or adopted on or after 1 September 2016. The 2018 Estimates for my Department provide for expenditure of nearly €16 million for the paternity benefit scheme.

  The estimated additional cost of extending the duration of paternity benefit is approximately €5.2 million for each extra week. The table below estimates the additional cost of increasing the duration of paternity benefit above its current 2 week duration at the current weekly rate of €240. It should be noted that Budget 2018 provided for the weekly rate of payment to be increased by €5 per week to €240 from 26 March 2018.

  Estimated annual cost of increasing the duration of Paternity Benefit based on 2018 rates

No. of additional weeks Estimated cost (€m)
1 5.2
2 10.4
3 15.6
4 20.8
  These estimates are based on the cost for a full year and assume that any increase in duration is implemented from the beginning of the year. The cost in the first year would depend on the implementation date that the increase in duration would take effect. This cost would be proportional to the full year cost.

Departmental Staff Training

 247. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the amount spent on facilitating departmental members' attendance at social media training conferences or other external events. [19396/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty There has been one instance of spending by my Department on facilitating the attendance of two department staff members’ at a social media conference.

  Three social media training courses have been provided on-site for Department staff. Full details are provided in the following tables.

  Social Media Conference

Date Event Total Cost
26/01/18 "Social Media Dublin" Conference €553.50


Date Training Spend Cost
08/02/17 €750.30 €750.30
19/05/17 €553.50 €553.50
12/11/17 €553.50 €553.50
Total   €1,857.30

Medical Aids and Appliances Applications

 248. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Seán Sherlock Zoom on Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the grant assistance which may be available to a person (details supplied) requiring hearing aids. [19466/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Qualification for medical appliance benefit is based on satisfying certain PRSI conditions. The person concerned would need to have paid 260 PRSI contributions at either class A, E, H, P, or S, since first starting work, and also have 39 contributions paid or credited in the tax year or years on which the claim is based.

  In this case, while the person concerned has 260 contributions paid she does not have the 39 contributions at classes A, E, H, P, or S, paid or credited in the specific tax years on which the claim is based (1990 to 1998), and therefore does not qualify for medical appliance benefit.

  However, if she has a medical card, she should contact her local HSE office, who will be able to advise her on her entitlement to hearing aids under their audiology scheme.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Paternity Benefit Applications

 249. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the reason a person (details supplied) was refused paternity benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19474/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The claim for paternity benefit was refused in this instance as the application was made outside of the prescribed time limits. In the letter informing of the disallowance, the person concerned was asked to submit any additional documentary evidence which might be relevant to the decision, following which the disallowance would be reviewed. No such evidence has been supplied to date.

  He was also informed of his right to appeal the decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Working Family Payment Applications

 250. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the status of the working family payment for a person (details supplied); when a decision will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19475/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Working Family Payment (WFP) is a weekly tax free payment which provides additional income support to employees on low earnings with children.

  A new application for WFP was recently received from the person concerned.

  A Deciding Officer (DO) is currently assessing the application and the applicant will be notified of the decision in due course.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Applications

 251. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the basis on which a decision has been made to refuse disability allowance in the case of a person (details supplied); if the matter can be investigated with a view to awarding payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19489/18]

Minister of State at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Based on the evidence supplied in support of their application for disability allowance (DA), this person’s application was disallowed on the grounds that the medical qualifying condition was not satisfied.

  The person in question has lodged an appeal with the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO). All the relevant papers requested by that Office recently were submitted by my department and the SWAO will be in touch with the person in due course in relation to the progress of the appeal.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.


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