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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 256-276 ^
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Applications
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Applications
 Header Item Student Support Schemes Issues
 Header Item Student Assistance Fund Issues
 Header Item Public Private Partnerships Data
 Header Item Teaching Qualifications
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Applications
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Vocational Education Committees Amalgamation
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Payments
 Header Item Teacher Training Provision
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Delays
 Header Item EU Presidency Expenditure
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item Ethics in Public Office Recommendations
 Header Item Companies Law Issues
 Header Item Rural Social Scheme Data

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 96 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 256-276 ^

Student Grant Scheme Applications

 256. 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 the position regarding an application for third level grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal and when it is likely that a decision may be made on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56882/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have confirmed with SUSI, the new centralised grant awarding authority, that on the 17th December, 2012 a request for further documentation was issued to the student referred to by the Deputy. When the requested documentation is returned the student will be notified directly of the outcome.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

 257. 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 when a decision will be made in respect of a Student Universal Support Ireland application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan; if he will process this application as a matter of urgency; when first payment will issue [56883/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have confirmed with SUSI, the new centralised grant awarding authority, that in the case of the student referred to by the Deputy a decision has been made and a letter will issue shortly directly to the student outlining the decision.

Student Support Schemes Issues

 258. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide a breakdown of the way the student assistant fund was distributed across higher education institutions, in tabular form, for the most recent academic year for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56914/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The attached table provides a breakdown of the distribution of the allocation of funding under the Student Assistance Fund for the 2011/12 academic year. This data has been supplied to my Department by the Higher Education Authority.

Allocation of Student Assistance Fund 2011-2012

Institutions Allocation for 2011-12
Dublin City University 452,554
National University of Ireland, Galway 720,535
National University of Ireland, Maynooth 403,133
Trinity College Dublin 627,098
University College Cork 749,795
University College Dublin 869,718
University of Limerick 463,287
Athlone IT 251,721
Cork IT 442,395
Dublin Institute of Technology 689,142
Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art 122,255
Dundalk IT 276,728
Galway-Mayo IT 364,506
IT Blanchardstown 149,852
IT Carlow 220,376
IT Sligo 247,835
IT Tallaght 198,808
IT Tralee 160,071
Letterkenny IT 221,161
Limerick IT* 338,260
Waterford IT 453,455
COI College of Education 10,002
Colaiste Mhuire, Marino 32,424
Froebel Collge 20,878
Mary Immaculate College 152,395
Mater Dei Institute 24,251
National College of Art and Design 43,756
National College of Ireland 104,623
Pontifical College 23,093
RSCI 18,528
St Angela's College 30,075
St. Patricks College Drumcondra 118,635
Grand Total 9,001,345
*Includes Tipperary campus

Student Assistance Fund Issues

 259. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if safeguards will be put in place to maintain the student assistant fund after 2013 when the funding from the European Social Fund under the Human Capital Investment Operational Programme ceases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56915/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The objective of the Student Assistance Fund is to assist students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise, due to their financial circumstances, be unable to continue their third level studies. The Fund is managed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on behalf of my Department and is funded under the National Development Plan, with assistance from the European Social Fund.

No decisions have yet been taken on the amount that will be allocated to Ireland or the programmes to be funded in the next round of EU Structural Funds for the period 2014-2020. I have no plans at present to discontinue the Student Assistance Fund.

Public Private Partnerships Data

 260. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the extent to which schools built under the public private partnership system are fully equipped to meet the needs of their student intake; for example, is it determined that science labs, language labs and so on should be fully equipped; is it also a requirement that ASD units be furnished and fully equipped; should an assembly hall in these schools be equipped with a stage and sound equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56944/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I would like to assure the Deputy that schools constructed under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) programme are fully furnished and equipped in compliance with my Department's specifications. This includes the provision of any required special needs furniture and equipment. The current list of specified furniture and equipment is available on the Department's website: www.education.ie.

Teaching Qualifications

 261. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn further to Parliamentary Question No. 152 of 8 November 2012 if teachers employed in substitute positions and in possession of a Masters Degree prior to 4 December 2011 are entitled to the qualification allowance. [56945/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  A person employed as a substitute teacher in the public sector on or before 4 December 2011 may be entitled to a qualification allowance for a masters degree awarded on or before 4 December 2011. Where applicable, qualification allowances will be payable where the teacher is eligible to be in receipt of the qualified rate of pay i.e. where the teacher is appropriately qualified and registered for the sector in which they are employed.

Further information is expected to be issued from my Department shortly. Once published, it may be accessed on www.education.ie.

  Question No. 262 answered with Question No. 218.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

 263. Deputy Joanna Tuffy Information on Joanna Tuffy Zoom on Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide an update on the entitlements regarding financial support towards the cost of fees of students from here studying in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56954/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn 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 is no provision under the student grant scheme for the payment of fees to students studying outside of the State. However there is an exceptional provision for students attending approved postgraduate courses in Northern Ireland. Such students may be eligible for assistance towards their postgraduate fees up to the maximum fees limit of €6,270 or a Postgraduate Fee Contribution of €2,000 subject to satisfying the terms and conditions of the Student Grant Scheme 2012.

  Officials in the Department of Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland have confirmed that a student from another European Union (EU) country studying in

Northern Ireland can apply for a student loan to cover the cost of tuition fees. Further information is available on www.nidirect.gov.uk.

  In addition, tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from the Revenue Commissioners on www.revenue.ie.

Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta

 264. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn cén fáth ar ghlac sé an cinneadh chun an Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (COGG) a chur faoin gComhairle Náisiúnta Curaclaim agus Measúnachta; an féidir leis a chur in iúl go cruinn cén coigilteas airgid a bheidh déanta de bharr an cinneadh sin a dhéanamh; an ndeachaigh sé i gcomhairle le bord COGG sular glacadh an cinneadh; an ndeachaigh sé i gcomhairle le pobal na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta a mbíonn COGG ag freastal orthu lena dtuairim a lorg sula ndearnadh an cinneadh; an dóigh leis, ar bhreathnú siar, gurbh fhearr an cinneadh a fhreaschur. [56959/12]

 265. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn cén fáth ar thug sé neamhaird ar mholtaí sa Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge, 2010-2030 nuair a rinne sé an cinneadh chun an Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (COGG) a chur faoin gComhairle Náisiúnta Curaclaim agus Measúnachta; cén fáth nár chloígh sé le moltaí na Straitéise go mbeadh príomhról ag COGG agus go mbeadh COGG ar an ngrúpa ardleibhéil straitéise; an bhféadfadh an tAire a mhíniú cén fáth nach bhfuil sé ag cloí le moltaí na Straitéise nuair nach bhfuil fiú coigilteas airgid i gceist; an gciallaíonn sé seo nach bhfuil an tAire ag tabhairt tacaíocht don Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge; céard is fiú straitéis a bheith ann mura bhfuil na rannóga rialtais sásta í a chur san áireamh. [56960/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 264 and 265 together.

Táim ag déanamh mo dhícheall chun a chinntiú go mairfidh COGG. Rinne mé an cinneadh COGG a chomhtháthú isteach sa CNCM, ní hamháin i gcomhthéacs na Straitéise 20 Bliana ach i gcomhthéacs Acht na Gaeltachta 2012 chomh maith. Creidim gurb é seo an bealach is fearr le gabháil ar aghaidh mar go ligfidh sé do COGG a chuid feidhmeanna Gaeilge a chomhlíonadh i gcónaí mar atá siad leagtha amach in Alt 31 den Acht Oideachais, 1998. Chuir mé an cinneadh seo in iúl don Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta agus tar éis dom faisnéis a thabhairt don Choiste Comh-aireachta um an Ghaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht táim ag cur an chinnidh sin i bhfeidhm le lántacaíocht ón gCoiste.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

 266. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the position regarding a Student Universal Support Ireland grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny [56981/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have confirmed with SUSI, the new centralised grant awarding authority, that on the 10th October, 2012 a request for further documentation was issued to the student referred to by the Deputy. When the requested documentation is returned the student will be notified directly of the outcome.

Schools Building Projects Status

 267. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the position regarding a school building project (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the timeframe involved should the school or his Department have to go to tender again; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56982/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy will be aware that some essential works were recently carried out at the school to which he refers. The remaining works are due to be re-tendered by the school and their Design Team. It is anticipated that the tender process will commence in the coming weeks, a completion contractor appointed in early 2013 and the works completed before the start of the 2013/14 academic year.

Vocational Education Committees Amalgamation

 268. 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 the timeline and stages of plans to amalgamate Cavan and Monaghan vocational education committees; if he will confirm that the incoming newly amalgamated board is to have only two staff representatives, one from Cavan and one from Monaghan; his views on whether this is under-representative in view of the role of staff in the delivery of services; if he will commit to ensure that this will not be the case; the measures he will take to ensure appropriate staff and service user representation on the incoming board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56991/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn In June of 2011, I announced that the existing 33 VECs would be amalgamated into 16 new Education and Training Boards (ETBs). In October 2011, I announced the locations of headquarters and sub-offices for those 16 bodies. The Government has introduced the Education and Training Boards Bill 2012 into the Dáil. This Bill will serve as the legislative basis for the new local Education and Training Board system. It has passed second stage in the Dáil, and the Oireachtas Select Sub-committee on Education and Skills is scheduled to consider it on 17 January 2013.

Following enactment of the Bill, it is my intention to move as quickly as possible to establish all of the Education and Training Boards, including the Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board.

The Bill provides for an 18 person board composed of 10 local authority representatives, 2 staff representatives, 2 parents' representatives and 4 others to be co-opted by that "core" board from such bodies as the Minister may determine. Staff representatives will be required to be members of staff of the new board to which they are seeking election and certain senior grades (eg CEO) will be ineligible to go forward for election. Although the Bill allows the Minister to make regulations for the conduct of staff representative elections, it is silent with regard to the geographic distribution of staff representatives.

In arriving at the proposed 18 member Board, with 10 local authority members, two parental representatives, two staff representatives and four representatives from bodies to be nominated by the Minister, I am seeking to achieve the optimal balance between a pragmatic size of board and democratic and local representation through local authority members, staff, parents and others.

The board composition envisaged under the new legislation will not come into effect until after the local elections, scheduled for June 2014. In the interim, all existing members of the VECs will continue to be members of the new ETBs once established.

Student Grant Scheme Payments

 269. Deputy John Perry Information on John Perry Zoom on John Perry asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if her attention has been drawn to the circumstances outlined by a person (details supplied) in relation to their student grant; if he will outline the options available to them and if he will intervene on their behalf in view of the extenuating circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57052/12]

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 that, in the case of the student referred to by the Deputy, a postgraduate fee contribution has been awarded and an award letter issued on 14th November, 2012, on the basis of the applicants reckonable income.

If the applicant considers that the grant awarded is not the correct one, he may appeal, in the first instance, to SUSI. The 30 day period provided for the submission of an appeal may be extended for a further period of 30 days if the appeals officer is satisfied that the person has given reasonable cause to so extend.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by SUSI, and remains of the view that SUSI has not interpreted the scheme correctly in his/her case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to the Student Grant Appeals Board. The relevant appeal form will be available on request from SUSI.

Teacher Training Provision

 270. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if a decision has been made to retain the bachelor of education degree programme at a college (details supplied) in County Sligo and if so, when this was decision taken.  [57088/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn As the Deputy may be aware, the HEA has been requested to consult with the relevant parties and to prepare a detailed plan on how to implement the recommendations made by an international panel of education experts on possible new structures to improve initial teacher education in Ireland. I expect to receive the detailed implementation plan in the near future. I will consider the plan when received and a further announcement will be made at that stage.

Student Grant Scheme Delays

 271. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide additional resources to address the crisis in processing applications in the student online grant awarding authority City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee and Student Universal Support Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57089/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn SUSI is staffed to the level that has been requested and the resources have been put in place to enable them to process applications to completion, subject to all the necessary documentation having been submitted in order to make a decision in each case.

  SUSI has indicated that it is on target to progress all applications received to date with the necessary supporting documentation between now and the end of the year.

EU Presidency Expenditure

 272. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if he has responded to the offer from an airline (details supplied) dated 20 September 2012, to offer an opportunity for the Irish EU Presidency to reduce the cost of the travel for politicians and officials between Brussels and Dublin; the reasons this offer has not been taken up to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56415/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes The offer referred to by the Deputy, was initially received by my colleague Lucinda Creighton, TD, Minister for European Affairs in the Department of An Taoiseach on 20th September 2012.

My Office received a request to examine the feasibility of incorporating the offer within the context of the current Government contract for Travel Management Services. The National Procurement Service procured this central government contract and the current provider is Carlson Wagonlit Travel (Ireland) Ltd. This contract gives the Contractor responsibility for the sourcing of the most competitive flight ticket fares/rates available from the market (while having regard to optimum route and timing options) for all destinations. CWT negotiates with airlines on behalf of Government Departments to get a reduced fare for specific routes/destinations, which can be booked centrally through CWT. CWT then invoice each Department/Office for flights booked.

A meeting took place between the airline and CWT and was attended by staff of the National Procurement Service. Further discussions took place to clarify the offer and the logistics of how the facility would be operated. The offer was agreed and is now available for booking through the Travel Management Services Contract.

The National Procurement Service has made government departments aware of this offer to inform their decisions in relation to travel arrangements between Dublin and Brussels during Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union during the first half of 2013.

Proposed Legislation

 273. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the organisations, bodies or persons with whom he has consulted with in relation to the Construction Contracts Bill 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56418/12]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce new legislation to protect small building subcontractors that have been denied payments from bigger companies. In this regard, my colleague Minister of State Brian Hayes is working with Senator Feargal Quinn to develop the Senator’s private member’s Construction Contracts Bill into a robust piece of legislation.

  Minister Hayes sought a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) of the Construction Contracts Bill to give him the opportunity to look at the issue from first principles as the Bill introduces new rights, obligations and systems which will affect contracts and impose new regulatory requirements between clients, contractors and subcontractors across a broad sweep of construction operations in the State.

  The RIA included a consultation process which took place on 28 June 2011. Aside from both main opposition spokespeople, Deputy Sean Fleming and Deputy Mary Lou McDonald, the groups that took part in the consultation process were: the Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland; Chartered Institute of Arbitrators; Construction Industry Federation; Engineers Ireland; Mr. Sean Gallagher (Smart Homes), Irish Concrete Federation, Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland; and, Society of Chartered Surveyors.

This consultation highlighted a number of matters relating to the Bill that required further consideration. These have been taken into account in the RIA on the Bill which was completed late last year and is available on my Department’s website: www.per.gov.ie/reports.

Ethics in Public Office Recommendations

 274. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the progress that has been made in relation to the implementation of recommendations arising from the Moriarty Tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56535/12]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Moriarty Tribunal made two recommendations for changes to company law, as follows:

- That a provision similar to section 172 of the UK Companies Act, 2006 be adopted, together with the adoption of additional implementation or enforcement measures;

- That consideration be given by the Oireachtas, and/or by the Company Law Review Group, to enacting provisions similar to those contained in Part 14 of the UK Companies Act, 2006, governing the control of political donations and expenditure.

The Government considered that provisions in the forthcoming Companies Bill, which will consolidate and give a statutory footing to the duties of directors, meet the objectives of the first recommendation above. The first, and main, part of the Companies Bill, including the provisions on directors’ duties, was published in “soft copy” in May 2011. With regard to the second recommendation above, provisions restricting corporate donations are contained in the Electoral Amendment (Political Funding) Act 2012, which comes within the remit of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Companies Law Issues

 275. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin further to Parliamentary Question No. 139 of 17 October 2012, if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the company in question (details supplied) has been reinstated with the Companies Registration Office and if he needs to update his reply accordingly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56965/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes As identified in my response to the PQ of 17 October last, the legal issues mentioned therein were brought before the High Court on 22 October 2012. I am advised by the Chief State Solicitor’s Office that, following a motion by Bank of Ireland Mortgage Bank applying to reinstate the company, the Court was satisfied that the said company be restored to the Register.

Rural Social Scheme Data

 276. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the timescale for the proposed focused policy assessment of the rural social scheme; the proposed methodology of the review; if it is intended to ascertain the views of sponsors, supervisors or participants in relation to the scheme; when he expects to receive the final report of the assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56265/12]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin As part of the range of expenditure reforms introduced over the past year, Focused Policy Assessments (FPAs) have been introduced as a new format for conducting short, streamlined evaluations of particular aspects of public service configuration and delivery. FPAs are designed to complement the broader range of evaluation tools available within the public service, including Value-for-Money & Policy Reviews, and will assist in maintaining the analytical momentum that was developed during the course of the 2011 Comprehensive Review of Expenditure. Part of the rationale for FPAs is to stimulate, and to a degree to challenge, thinking within the broader system of public administration about current issues in public policy, and as such the findings of FPAs are not intended to reflect necessarily my views as Minister or the position of Department of Public Expenditure & Reform more generally. Final decisions in particular policy areas will be made by Ministers, weighing all of the various inputs to the decision-making process.

As set out in the recent Expenditure Report 2013, a range of FPAs are currently underway within my Department, and one of these relates to the Rural Social Scheme. This FPA is being carried out by the Central Expenditure Evaluation Unit of my Department and I expect to see a draft early in the New Year.

This particular FPA is examining a number of core policy evaluation criteria, namely the rationale underpinning the Scheme, the continuing relevance of the objectives of the Scheme, and to a lesser extent, the effectiveness of the Scheme. The methodology consists of review of programme documentation and previous evaluations, analysis of wider developments in related policy spheres and quantitative data analysis. Given this focused approach, and the nature of the evaluation questions under consideration, it is not envisaged that meetings with sponsors, supervisors or participants will be necessary to bring this particular FPA to a conclusion.


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