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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 215-221
 Header Item Mobility Allowance Decision
 Header Item Home Help Service Provision
 Header Item Parliamentary Questions Numbers
 Header Item Sports Capital Programme Applications
 Header Item Sports Capital Programme Applications
 Header Item Departmental Reports
 Header Item Tourism Promotion

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 781 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 215-221

Mobility Allowance Decision

 215. Deputy John Halligan Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly his plans to review the mobility allowance for persons over 66 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48893/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch This matter requires further consideration by Government in order to meet the requirements of the Equal Status Acts and to ensure no hardship for those currently in receipt of the mobility allowance. The Department of Health is seeking further legal advice as to the options available to the Government. The Ombudsman is asking the Department to

  -Remove the upper age limit as a condition of the mobility allowance scheme with immediate effect.

  -Authorise the HSE to reconsider the application for complainants in the report without taking account of the upper age limit.-

  -Instruct the HSE to reconsider applications since 1 April 2011 which were refused solely on the basis of the upper age limit without regard to the upper age limit.

    The Department is not in a position to amend the circular relating to the mobility allowance as recommended in the report. The recommendations, if implemented would ignore the very serious financial constraints on the Department, the HSE and the State generally. Implementation of the recommendations would create liabilities that the State could not afford.

Home Help Service Provision

 216. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly if his attention has been drawn to concerns being raised by home helps with regard to their lack of contracts and conditions of employment; his plans to take action regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41679/12]

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly On 29 June 2012, the Labour Court recommended that the HSE and SIPTU should engage in relation to matters concerning home help contracts and that in the event that there are any outstanding issues, they may be referred back to the court. The HSE engaged with SIPTU concerning the recommendation and advised that as part of the process it would be undertaking an information-gathering exercise to ascertain the up-to-date position regarding the nature of the contracts held by home helps and the hours worked under such contracts. This exercise is being undertaken at present.

Having met with the parties again on 15 October 2012, the Labour Court recommended that they should re-engage under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission and that this engagement be completed by 30 November 2012. The parties are to meet at the LRC on 19 November 2012. It would not be appropriate for me, as Minister, to comment further on these matters while these processes are under way.

Parliamentary Questions Numbers

 217. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly the average response time for Parliamentary Questions referred by his Department to the Health Service Executive; if he will provide figures for the number of Parliamentary Questions processed by the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE each year since it was established; the average response times for each such year; his views on whether the response time for Parliamentary Questions referred to the HSE goes beyond the response times for other questions; the steps he will take to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48754/12]

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly My Department receives an average of 6,000 parliamentary questions each year. Around 60% of these questions concern operational issues and are referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to Deputies. Many of these questions relate to individual patients and local day to day operational matters.

Parliamentary questions relating to operational issues of a national scale or importance are answered by myself or the relevant Minister of State instead of being referred to the HSE. Whenever possible these questions are answered on the relevant Dáil sitting day. Where this is not possible because the information is not readily available, a reply is issued as soon as possible thereafter. These are classified within my Department as ministerial response questions.

The statistical data sought by the Deputy in relation to the number of PQs referred and response times since 2005 is set out below. From 2006 to 2007 the executive worked to a timeframe of issuing responses to directly referred PQs within 20 working days of receipt. From 2008 this was reduced to 15 working days.

2005 - 2,388 referred - average response rate not available

2006 - 3,060 referred - 55% answered within 20 days

2007 - 2,744 referred - 65% answered within 20 days

2008 - 3,544 referred - 73% answered within 15 days

2009 - 3,145 referred - 62% answered within 15 days

2010 - 2,550 referred - 53% answered within 15 days (Performance in this year was affected by prolonged industrial action)

2011 - 2,464 referred - 58% answered within 15 days

2012 - 3,049 referred - 75% answered within 15 days

I would like to assure the Deputy that responding to the information needs of the Oireachtas is a priority both for my Department and the Executive. As noted above, the executive is committed, in the 2012 National Service Plan, to answering 75% of directly referred Parliamentary Questions within a period of 15 working days of receipt. Performance in relation to this target it is currently being met and will continue to be monitored closely. The executive introduced a new IT system in the last quarter of 2011 and this has led to a significant improvement in its overall response time to referred questions. The most recent statistics available for this year (up to 9 October) show that of the 3,049 questions referred for direct reply this year, 2,274 (75%) have been answered within the 15 day timeframe. Taking into account questions which took longer than the 15 day timeframe to answer, the figures show that 2,981 (98%) of referred questions have now been answered. The figures for ministerial response questions show that of the 496 questions referred to the executive for input, 464 (94%) have been answered in full. Regular meetings are held with the HSE's parliamentary affairs division to monitor response times and to emphasise the importance of issuing timely and comprehensive replies to Deputies.

Questions concerning individual patients and operational matters relating to local issues will continue to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to Deputies. While my Department has ultimate accountability for the health services, it is my belief that a balance has to be struck between responsibility for local issues, which rests with local area service managers, and the ultimate accountability of Ministers.

Sports Capital Programme Applications

 218. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the date on which he expects to publish the list of grants under the 2012 sports capital grant programme. [48776/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring My Department has received over 2,170 applications for funding under the 2012 Sports Capital Programme.  This is the largest number of applications ever received under the programme. Departmental officials are processing the applications and this process will take some time due to the volume of applications received.  I expect to be in a position to announce the list of successful applicants later this year.  All applicants will be informed of the outcome of their application at that stage.

Sports Capital Programme Applications

 219. Deputy Ciarán Lynch Information on Ciaran Lynch Zoom on Ciaran Lynch asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the schedule and procedure for processing sports grant applications; when confirmation of valid application will be notified; when payment of grant will be notified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48778/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring My Department has received over 2,170 applications for funding under the 2012 Sports Capital Programme.  This is the largest number of applications ever received under the programme. Departmental officials are processing the applications and this process will take some time due to the volume of applications received.  I expect to be in a position to announce the  successful applicants later this year.  All applicants will be informed of the outcome of their application at that stage.  After allocations have been made, grantees will have to satisfy certain terms and conditions such as tendering and tax clearance compliance before any payments can be made.

Departmental Reports

 220. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide the names, costs, date of commission, date or expected date of publication and name of the external consultants of all external reports commissioned by his Department since January 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48878/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The information sought is being collated and will be sent on to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Tourism Promotion

 221. Deputy Joe McHugh Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the role of the Irish Open in stimulating the tourism industry here; his plans to develop Irish golf tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48996/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The matter raised is an operational matter for Fáilte Ireland.  I have referred the Deputy's question to Fáilte Ireland for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.


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