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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 552 - 571
 Header Item EU Regulations
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Disability Allowance Applications
 Header Item Departmental Correspondence
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals Delays
 Header Item Post Office Network
 Header Item Departmental Contracts Data
 Header Item Programme for Government Implementation
 Header Item Public Services Card Provision

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 835 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 118 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 552 - 571

  Question No. 552 withdrawn.

EU Regulations

 553. Deputy John O'Mahony Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton in view of the fact that if there are alterations to existing aid by way of payments for the free travel scheme amounting to an increase of more than 20% from the original budget, and that it has gone on longer than six years, it is deemed new aid for each of these reasons even if commenced in 1967 under Regulation 794/2004 and that she is obliged to claw back the unlawful State aid from Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus immediately; if she will confirm that she will do so; whether she will be bound by her answer on the 10 March 2014; and if she will notify the EU Commission accordingly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14022/14]

 554. Deputy John O'Mahony Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will clarify an issue in relation to contractual arrangements with binding obligations in breach of EU state aid rules (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [14024/14]

 555. Deputy John O'Mahony Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will clarify obligations on Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus and certain compliance issues (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14025/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 553 to 555, inclusive, together.

The intention of the free travel scheme is that it should not confer any real financial advantage on participating undertakings. Moreover, the scheme’s objectives are of a social character and the benefits involved are targeted at individual consumers. The mechanism used to deliver those social character benefits to passengers requires participation by transport undertakings. Commission Regulation (EC) No 794/2004 of 21 April 2004 mentioned by the deputy, refers to changes in State aid and is therefore not applicable in the context of a scheme which does not constitute State aid.

It is the clear understanding of successive Irish Governments that the free travel scheme is compatible with Article 107 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). In this regard:

a) Undertakings participating in the free travel scheme have a clearly defined responsibility to provide free travel to beneficiaries of the scheme whereas non-participants have no such obligation;

b) Compensation under the scheme is calculated in advance on the basis of fares foregone at a reduced rate to take account of travel generated by the free travel scheme. The objective is that compensation payable should not exceed what is necessary having regard to the costs incurred;

c) Those operators which participate in the scheme receive a payment significantly below the standard fare whereas those operators which do not participate in the scheme are free to charge the full fare for all passengers.

As the free travel scheme is not intended to provide a profit to operators, payment under the scheme is not an “advantage” in State aids terms but merely compensation for the additional costs incurred. For these reasons the free travel scheme is not considered to be incompatible with Article 107. It pursues a social objective of the type identified in Article 107(2) (a) TFEU.

In any event, the scheme has been in operation since 1967, before Ireland joined the European Communities in 1973. Therefore, even if the scheme did amount to State aid (which, of course, is not accepted by successive Irish Governments) it would be “existing” aid under Articles 17-19 of Regulation 659/1999. The question of informing the EU Commission does not therefore arise.

The contractual arrangements in place with participating transport operators, including CIÉ companies, are on the basis of agreements set out in exchange of letters, rather than a formal contract. This practice is not uncommon, and indeed is used by the EU itself. Participating companies are obliged to accept passengers in possession of a valid free travel pass. There have been no changes to this obligation since 1997. The Department carries out surveys to ensure that companies meet their obligations.

Last year a letter was issued to all transport operators participating in the free travel scheme prior to the launch of the Department’s public services card incorporating the free travel variant. This letter required them to submit the following documentation:

1. Current Tax Clearance Certificate;

2. A National/International Road Passenger Transport Operator’s Licence as issued by the Department of Transport;

3. Regular service Licence as issued by the National Transport Authority for all bus routes in the Free Travel Scheme;

4. PSV licences in respect of each of the buses on which they carry free travel pass holders;

5. Motor insurance policies which indemnified the Minister for Social Protection against any claims, causes or actions arising out of any accident involving free travel pass holders while embarking, travelling on or disembarking from their buses;

6. A Public Liability Insurance Certificate;

7. Fares structure/s and timetables.

Companies were reminded of their requirement to notify the Department of any change in the level of service which they provide, ensuring at least one month's prior written notification of their intention to cease or modify their bus operations on any route. On foot of this, a range of operators across the State were inspected on the ground by Department officials. To ensure that the service as agreed is available, each operator was communicated with for confirmation (by signed declaration) of routes and timetables as agreed with the Department. Any operator found in the course of the inspection not complying fully with the terms of their agreement, will be inspected further and action will be taken to stop their payments and recover any overpayment from when they actually ceased to operate a particular route.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 556. Deputy Nicky McFadden Information on Nicky McFadden Zoom on Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if the disability allowance appeal of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath has been received by the appeals office; and when a decision will be reached on the appeal. [14026/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all of the available evidence, decided to disallow the appeal of the person concerned by way of a summary decision which was notified to her on 3 September 2013. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of an Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed in the light of additional evidence or new facts. Following receipt of additional evidence, the Appeals Officer agreed to review the case. In light of the new information, the Appeals Officer has decided to set aside his previous decision and has re-opened the appeal by way of granting an oral hearing. Every effort will be made to have the hearing as soon as possible and the person concerned will be notified of the arrangements when finalised. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Disability Allowance Applications

 557. Deputy Michael Ring Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide details of the timeline pertaining to a disability allowance claim and review, in tabular form, in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; the date on which an application for disability allowance was received in her Department; the date the medical element of the claim was approved by her Department’s medical officer; the date the file was sent to the deciding officer which resulted in the claim being disallowed from 3 December; the date on which the person submitted further documentation seeking a review of the decision; the date the file was sent to a social welfare inspector for a full report; the exact amount this person's means were in excess of the statutory limit for disability allowance; when it is envisaged that this claim review will be complete; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14036/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned was awarded a reduced rate disability allowance (DA) with effect from 30 March 2011. Following a review of her continuing entitlement to DA on 28 November 2013 she was disallowed payment from 3 December 2013 as her means exceeded the statutory limit for receipt of DA. Following a request by the person for a review of this decision, the person’s file is currently with a social welfare investigator for a means investigation. When the investigator’s report is received a deciding officer will review the claim and the person will be notified directly of the outcome. It is expected that the investigator’s report will be received within the next two weeks.

  This information is summarised, as requested, in the following tabular statement.

Date Application was Received29-March-2011
Date of Opinion of  Medical Assessor14-June-2011
Date DA claim was awarded (at a reduced rate because of means) with effect from 30 March 201120-October-2011
Date file was sent from Social Welfare Investigator  to Deciding Officer for review of continuing eligibility25-April -2013
Date from which claim was disallowed on the grounds that means exceeded the statutory limit03-December-2013
Date on which further documentation received from customer with a request for a further review20-December-2013
Date file was sent to Social Welfare Investigator to establish means14-January-2014
Exact Amount by which Means are in Excess of the statutory weekly limit€3.28
Date expected for Completion of Investigator’s reportWithin 10 working days

  Question No. 558 withdrawn.

Departmental Correspondence

 559. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if citizens' applications for welfare and pensions and their associated files are sent via e-mail or post, the processing times for all forms of applications to her Department; and the associated postage costs.  [14054/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department administers over 70 schemes and services through a network of local and central offices throughout the country. In some instances customers call into their local office to submit a claim, while in others claims are made by post or online. For example, applications for State Contributory Pension are proactively initiated by the Department where there is a known entitlement, with the customer given a unique key to enable them to go online to complete their application. In the case of jobseeker's assistance and jobseeker's benefit these claims are made in person at the customer’s local office with no transfer of files required except in the case of an appeal. In addition, it should be noted that the Departments systems are set up to make information accessible throughout the Departments network, thereby greatly reducing the need to transfer files or applications.

  It is not departmental policy under data protection to send customer files by e-mail. Postal costs are not broken down in such a way that could provide an estimate of the amount spent solely on this function. The following table sets out the processing times on the main schemes operated by the Department during February 2014.

Overall Claim Processing PerformanceAverage weeks to award new claims,

February 2014
Average weeks to award all claims

including appeals, February 2014
Jobseekers Benefit 1
Jobseekers Allowance 3
One-Parent Family Payment 13
State Pension Contributory (Dom) 7
State Pension Transition (Dom) 5
Widow(er)'s Contributory Pension  2
State Pension Non-Contributory 19
Widow(ers) Non Contributory Pension 13
Household Benefits 1
Free Travel 3
Domiciliary Care Allowance 9
Supplementary Welfare Allowance 1
Bereavement Grant - Sligo 5
Child Benefit (Domestic & FRA) 2
Child Benefit (EU Regulation) 28
Family Income Supplement (New) 4
Carer's Allowance1234
Disability Allowance1131
Invalidity Pension938
Bereavement Grant - Longford 1
Illness Benefit 1

Social Welfare Appeals Delays

 560. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will expedite a supplementary welfare allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14055/14]

 561. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will expedite a jobseeker's allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14056/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 560 and 561 together.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the jobseeker’s allowance appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 12 February 2014. Her supplementary welfare allowance appeal was registered on 3 March 2014. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Social Protection. These papers have now been received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and both appeals have been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeals based on documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

  Question No. 562 withdrawn.

Post Office Network

 563. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the measures she is taking to support the use of post offices in connection with social protection payments; her future plans in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14081/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I was very pleased to sign a multi-year contract with An Post for the delivery of over the counter cash services to welfare clients in December last year following an EU-wide procurement competition. This contract, which is very substantial in terms of its reach, value and impact, enables the disbursement of cash payments to some nine hundred thousand (900,000) clients currently. These services are provided through a network of over 1,300 post offices and agencies around the country.

Last year approximately €9.5 billion was paid in cash to our clients at post offices. This accounted for 43.7 million transactions and cost the Department just under €75 million (including internal processing costs). By comparison, some 37 million payments were issued directly into accounts in financial institutions by electronic funds transfer (EFT) and cost the Department under €9 million. In short, cash payments are an inherently more expensive means of paying clients. The differential reflects to a large part the additional costs incurred in securely packing, processing, transporting, delivering and issuing cash to clients. The Department must address such a significant variation in costs in the interests of the economy, taxpayers and welfare clients.

Mindful of the scope, scale and impact of these payments, the Department undertook a root and branch examination of its payment processes, methods and approaches. This resulted in the preparation of a Payment Strategy which was approved by the Government last year. The Strategy has the goal of reducing significantly the level at which welfare payments are made in cash and thereby minimising the associated expensive fees. This is in keeping with wider Government policies and changes in consumer preferences. It is based on the objective of better public services and more effective e-payments as set out in the Public Service Reform Plan and the eGovernment Strategy 2012-2015. It is also aligned to the objectives of the National Payments Plan, which highlighted that the move to electronic payments is critical to reducing the very high levels of cash usage in the Irish economy with its consequential impacts on costs and competitiveness. The Strategy aims to remove the limits that cash payments impose on clients in terms of making onward financial transactions and availing of cheaper prices online.

We are all aware of the clear trend towards electronic payments which are being adopted by consumers generally as a matter of choice. These behavioural choices are very apparent among the Department’s clients also. Two out of every three clients who claimed a contributory state pension last year chose to have it paid into an account. Four out of every five new child benefit clients chose to be paid electronically into an account. The Department is willing to accommodate its clients in exercising the choice of electronic payments where this is possible in the interests of economy, efficiency and national competitiveness.

Departmental Contracts Data

 564. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton further to Parliamentary Question No. 304 of 11 February 2014, in relation to amounts and other details to do with external contracts and procurement and further to the answer she provided to Parliamentary Question No. 115 of 12 March 2014 seeking the same information, if she will provide an explanation for the difference between both of approximately €14 million and the way some amounts and recipients are absent from one answer to the other; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [14102/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I always endeavour to be helpful in relation to the information provided in answers to Parliamentary Questions and to ensure that the response addresses the specific question raised. I would point out to the Deputy that the information sought in the Parliamentary Questions referred to was not the same and, accordingly, there were significant differences in the details supplied in the answers and the total amounts of money referred to therein.

  The major difference is that Parliamentary Question No. 304 (PQ 6461/14) of 11 February 2014 asked me to provide details in relation to contracts awarded since May 2011. Parliamentary Question No. 115 (PQ 12586/14) of 13 March 2014 requested details of payments made since February 2011. The responses provided were responses appropriate to the details sought.

Some of the apparent difference also relates to the specific request in the first PQ for the full value of certain contracts, i.e. those put in place since May 2011, compared to the request for amounts paid in a given period, i.e. since February 2011, in the second PQ.

  In addition, there are a number of recipients listed on PQ 12586/14 that are not included on PQ 6461/14 as the relevant contracts were awarded prior to May 2011. For example, the contract value for the General Register Office (GRO) maintenance & development project awarded in 2010, and the contract value for SDM (Service Delivery Modernisation) support and maintenance awarded in 2008 are not included in PQ 6461/14. However payments made since February 2011 in relation to these contracts totalling some €11 million are included in PQ 12586/14. Full details of the constituent elements of the two responses are included in the following tables.

  I am satisfied that the engagement of consultants and external service providers contributes to decision making and policy formulation, and provides valuable support for the Department’s service delivery modernisation and reform programmes, and that procurement of consultants and external service providers is compliant with best practice in procurement, governance and realising value for money.

Contractor Amount Spent 2011-end Jan 2014 Contract Value for contracts awarded post May 2011
 GRO Maintenance & Development€1,022,009Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 SDM - Means Object€195,305Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 Business Process Improvement€186,563Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 SDM- Payment & Generic Scheme €1,631,729Payment & Generic Scheme & Payments Processing - Deduction at Source for LPT€1,227,284
 FÁS ICT Applications Systems Review€44,772FÁS ICT Applications Systems Review€44,772
 Single European Payment Area (SEPA) compliance€136,056SEPA Compliance Project€169,316
 Predictive Analytics Model€15,744Predictive Analytics Model€15,744
 Mobile Opportunity Exploration€33,388Mobile Opportunity Exploration€33,388
AccentureEnhancement of Means Assessment Object Project€352,645Enhancement of Means Assessment Object on the BOMi€391,829
 SDM - Support & Maintenance €10,093,362Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 Redundancy & Insolvency Functions€1,165,158Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 SDM - Non Contributory Suite €1,115,031Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 SDM - Activation Customer Profiling & Case Management€132,788Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 Migration of CWS Staff HR Records€25,620DPER Contract = not included in response 
 Public Services Card Registration & Management Functionality on BOMi€1,045,046Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 Intreo – One Stop Shop Pilot€176,836Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 BOMi Production Support€1,986,209BOMi Production Support€3,693,075
 BOMi Business Change€1,221,707BOMi Business Change€2,386,200
 BOMi Release & Environments Mgt Functions€798,563BOMi Release & Environment Mgmt.€1,445,250
 BOMi Central Test€655,517BOMi Central Test€1,199,250
Bearing PointIllness & Disability Scheme enhancement €379,669Technical Change Services in Medical Referral & Case Management Service €607,285
 Standard Authentication Framework Environment (SAFE) Public Services Card€182,314Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 SAFE PSC provision€2,349,494Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
Biometric Card ServicesStandard Authentication Framework Environment (SAFE) Public Services Card€2,779,411Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 IS Audit Consultancy/Computer Audit Assistance€103,021IS Internal Audit Services€170,748
 Confidential Forensic Investigation Services €7,109Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 Security Partner to provide ongoing Information Security Support€34,215Security Partner to provide ongoing Information Security Support (2012-2014)€83,025
 Support to Regional Development Team (Client Contact & Assessment)€537,854Support to Regional Development Team€1,564,560
DeloittePathways to Work Case Management - BOM Dev Team €254,705Business Object Modelling Team€826,560
 SWITCH Research Programme€450,000DOF Contract = not included in response 
 Analysis & Measurement of Deprivation & Poverty €199,474Analysis & Measurement of Poverty and Deprivation €230,703
 Profiling of “Stock” Live Registrants€16,873Profiling of Live Registrants to identify those most at risk of Labour Market Disadvantage€33,745
ESRIEvaluation Research (BTEA)€9,809Not on contract D/B = not included in response 
 PARP Support & Development€619,480PARP Support & Development and Oracle Support & Upgrade€2,750,000
 PARP Modifications €101,337PARP Support & Dev €116,883
 PARP Production Support€51,540Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
FUJITSUOracle Financials & Business Objects€13,950Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 SDM - Certification of Unemployment by Mobile Phone€830,777Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 Office Systems Modernisation€199,475Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 Stór Support & Maintenance€244,321Corporate Portal (Stór) Support & Maintenance€600,000
 Corporate Portal (Stór) Support & Maintenance€189,088Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
Hewlett PackardWelfare.ie Redesign 2012€426,451Welfare.ie Redesign 2012€569,958
     
 Business Objects Modelling Advice & Expertise €92,104Business Objects Modelling Advice & Expertise (2013-2015)€463,710
 SDM - Business Objects Modelling Advice & Expertise€108,486Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 BOMi - Business Objects Modelling Advice & Expertise€234,463Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 Technical Development Advice€144,644Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 BOMi- Technical Development Advice€168,181Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 SDM - Technical Development Advice€199,260Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
Naked ObjectsNo Spending in period Provision of support for the Naked Objects Framework (NOF)€153,750
3MSAFE - Facial Image Matching €184,794Not Included  
Axiom ConsultingEmployee Engagement Programme (Culture & Values) €74,812Culture & Values (Employee Engagement Programme) €122,692
Centre for Economic and Social InclusionExternal Service Delivery - Employment Services€140,989External Service Delivery - Employment Services€114,260
Compass PointDeveloping architecture for Intreo€4,600Developing architecture for Intreo€4,600
Consult HyperionSAFE PSC€132,978Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 Corepay Development & Upgrade€38,402Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 Online Overtime€1,016Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
 CoreExpense Travel & Subsistence System Upgrade & Upgrade of Core Time & Attendance System€63,862CoreExpense Travel & Subsistence System Upgrade & Upgrade of Core Time & Attendance System€80,980
 Online P60, PRD60 & Income Levy Certificate €526Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
Core InternationalCorePay & CoreExpense Enhancement (SEPA)€5,381DOF Contract = not included in response  
Creative Inc.Design Work for Intreo€24,777Design Work for Intreo€23,407
Daniel FinnPathways to Work – Consultation€650Pathways to Work – Consultation€650
Dept. of Enterprise, Trade & EmploymentAdministrative Burden Review€14,000Not a DSP contract = not included in response 
Ernst & YoungSecurity Partner to provide ongoing Information Security Support€7,623Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
FÁSFÁS support for existing ES/CE Information Systems €55,533Memorandum of Understanding with FAS => not included in response 
Haywood AssociatesBOMi- Technical Development Advice€87,871BOMi- Technical Development Advice€524,694
IndeconEvaluation of the JobBridge National Internship Scheme€59,557Evaluation of the JobBridge National Internship Scheme€60,725
 Digital Documents (Cardiff Teleform Software Development & Support)€160,825  
Inpute TechnologiesSAFE PSC€33,210Digital Documents€175,890
 Update of the Diet Supplement Diet Cost Report€4,000Update of the Diet Supplement Diet Cost Report€4,000
Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute  Update of the Diet Supplement Diet Cost Report - duplicate€4,000
Irish Research CouncilSocial Inclusion Research Innovation Awards€61,103Grant Aided Research = not included in response 
Dr. Mary MulcahyPoverty Research Initiative Awards€1,422Grant Aided Research = not included in response 
Eleanor AshePoverty Research Initiative Awards€1,750Grant Aided Research = not included in response 
John GrenhamReport on GRO Records€3,557Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
KPMGActuarial Review of Social Insurance Fund€153,750Actuarial Review of Social Insurance Fund€153,750
LanguageIntreo Corporate Identity€21,990Intreo Corporate Identity€22,730
Mel Cousins & AssociatesReview of Best International Practice regarding In-Work Supports€10,000Review of Best International Practice re In-Work Supports€10,000
 Guidance documentation for deciding & appeals officers€2,400Guidance documentation for deciding & appeals officers€2,400
Mercer Ireland LtdLong-term Pensions Policy Research €18,450Long-term Pensions Policy Research (Review of Pensions Priority)€18,150
MicrosoftSupport to Technical Architecture Group€13,445Strategic input to Technical Architecture Group€53,109
     
Monsoon ConsultingModification to Jobseekers smartphone app€7,042FÁS Contract (Not DSP Contract) = not included in response 
 Updates to Jobseekers smartphone app€7,085Modification to Jobseekers smartphone app€6,865
Net Affinity LtdPoverty Research Initiative Awards€291Grant Aided Research = not included in response 
NUI GalwayPoverty Research Initiative Awards€5,000Grant Aided Research = not included in response 
NUI MaynoothPoverty Research Initiative Awards€6,500Grant Aided Research = not included in response 
OECDOECD Review of Long Term Pension Policy€130,000OECD Review of Long Term Pension Policy€130,000
 Youth Guarantee Advice€50,000Planning re Youth Guarantee Implementation€50,000
PA Consulting GroupPayments Strategy €111,142Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
Patrick Oliver RyanGender Recognition Advisor Group€7,000Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
PlatformWebEURES Cross Border Partnership Website€3,250Not DSP Contract [EURES Northern Ireland/Ireland Cross Border Partnership] = not included in response 
PriceWaterhouseCooperNational Pensions Framework Implementation/Review of Pension Charges€60,900Review of Pension Charges€61,500
 Provision of Financial Advisory Services (for Payment Services Evaluation)€7,380Provision of Financial Advisory Services€7,380
Red DogDesign work on various SDM projects€944Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
RitsConfidential Forensic Services€4,654Confidential Forensic Services€99,000
Technical Guidance LtdReview of Pension Charges€1,230Review of Pension Charges€1,230
TOR FinancialModels of National Employment Based Pension Systems€9,900Long-term Pensions Policy Research (Development of Report on Auto Enrolment)€6,956
Trinity CollegePoverty Research Initiative Awards€9,788Grant Aided Research = not included in response 
UCDPoverty Research Initiative Awards€6,650Grant Aided Research = not included in response 
Version 1Welfare.ie Maintenance & Support€58,011Contract awarded pre May 2011 = not included in response 
Wright Environmental ServicesNot Consultancy or IT External Service Provision = not included in response Environmental Services€7,026
Employment Health Advisors LtdNot Consultancy or IT External Service Provision = not included in response Site investigation re. smoke testing/waste pipes/hygiene monitoring/odours in DSP Cobh, Co Cork€2,023
NifastNot Consultancy or IT External Service Provision = not included in response Arklow, Co Wicklow; Tallaght, Dublin and Kings Inn, Dublin, SWLO risk assessments regarding reception areas€1,845
Elizabeth CostelloNot Consultancy or IT External Service Provision = not included in response Editing Services for research publications€650
CPL Training Ltd, trading as Nifast Health and Safety TrainingNot Consultancy or IT External Service Provision = not included in response Health & Safety Review of Department of Social Protection premises, 77 Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin 1€1,100
 TOTAL€34,831,593TOTAL €20,528,647
   TOTAL DIFFERENCE€14,302,946

Programme for Government Implementation

 565. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide an update in tabular form of the commitments in the programme for Government that relate to her Department; and the progress that has been made in the implementation of each commitment.  [14120/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Programme for Government commits to implementing a fundamental programme of reform of the system of social protection. The scale of this reform is challenging and wide-reaching. I am committed to working with the Department and its agencies in the delivery of the commitments in this Programme for Government and substantial progress on many of the commitments has already been made. The third Annual Report which sets out the implementation status of my Department’s main achievements in the Programme for Government was published by the Department of the Taoiseach in March 2014 and is available on http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Work_Of_The_Department/Programme_for_Government/Programme_for_Government_Annual_Report_20141.pdf

  It is the Government’s intention to publish the fourth Annual Report in March 2015 which will set out specific progress during 2014. The timeline for the delivery of my Department’s commitments for Programme for Government is over the lifetime of the Government. The progress summary on the implementation of the commitments relevant to my Department is outlined in the following table.

  Current update as of March 2014

  Commitments in the Programme for Government for which the Department of Social Protection has a primary role

Commitment Status Summary at March 2014
Halve the lower 8.5% rate of PRSI up to end 2013 on jobs paying up to €356 per week – announced in the Jobs Initiative.Implemented.
Expand eligibility for the back to education allowance.Implementation options under consideration and new initiatives are being piloted in 2013/2014.
The development of a new graduate and apprentice internship scheme, work placement programmes and further education opportunities for our young unemployed providing an additional 60,000 places across a range of schemes and initiatives – announced in the Jobs Initiative.Implementation in progress.
Replacing FÁS with a new National Employment and Entitlements Service (NEES) so that all employment and benefit support services will be integrated in a single delivery unit managed by the Department of Social Protection. This integrated service would provide a ‘one stop shop’ for people seeking to establish their benefit entitlements; looking for a job; and seeking advice about their training options.Implementation underway, including roll out of Intreo.
The NEES will process citizen entitlements such as supplementary welfare allowances, higher education grants and welfare allowances. It will manage as much as possible means testing for State entitlements. It will also be responsible for employment referral and training supports provided by FÁS. This service will offer users a higher level of personalised employment counselling, with more frequent face-to-face interviews. Those on the live register who are identified as being most at risk of long-term unemployment will receive priority treatment for more intensive support. It will ensure active case management for people in need of assistance.Implementation underway, including roll out of Intreo.
Maintain the standard 10.75% rate of employers PRSI.Implemented.
Introduce a range of measures to tackle the problem of welfare fraud.A range of measures have been implemented under the Fraud Initiative 2011-2013. Further progress will be made in the context of a new anti-fraud strategy which is being developed.
Establish a Tax and Social Welfare Commission to examine entitlements of self employed and the elimination of disincentives to employment.

The Commission will examine the interaction between the taxation and the welfare systems to ensure that work is worthwhile. In particular, it will examine family and child income supports, and a means by which self-employed people can be insured against unemployment and sickness
Implemented.

The Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare has completed and reported on three modules:

• Child and family income supports

• Budget 2012 proposals relating to

Disability Allowance and

Domiciliary Care Allowance

• Extending Social Insurance

coverage for the self employed

The Advisory Group is currently progressing its final module of work on the issue of working age income supports.
Convert the Money Advice and Budgeting Service into a strengthened Personal Debt Management Agency with strong legal powers.The Personal Insolvency Act 2012 provides for three new non-judicial debt resolution processes; the Debt Relief Notice (DRN), the Debt Settlement Arrangement and the Personal Insolvency Arrangement.

At the request of the Minister, the Citizens Information Board (CIB) agreed that MABS would act as Approved Intermediaries for the purposes of processing DRNs. The CIB together with MABS have worked closely with the Insolvency Service of Ireland to ensure that the appropriate structures are in place within MABS to meet the challenge of delivering this new service.

An Approved Intermediary Service (AIS) has been established for the purposes of processing DRNs.

To date, 31 MABS companies are included on the Insolvency Service of Ireland register of Approved Intermediaries.
Make greater use of Mortgage Interest Supplement to support families who cannot meet their mortgage payments. Budget 2014 provided for the closure of Mortgage Interest Supplement for new applicants from 1 January 2014 and a wind down of the scheme over a four year period.

In line with the Government’s strategy to assist those experiencing mortgage difficulties, the underlying principle of this measure recognises that the most appropriate way in which customers can be supported is through engagement with their lender under the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP) which will provide sustainable and durable resolution options.
Maintain Social Welfare rates.Implemented.
Committed to achieving the targets in the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion to reduce the number of people experiencing poverty.

Implementation of the National Social Target for Poverty Reduction continues to be rolled out in 2014.

A Social Inclusion Report covering progress on implementation of the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion during the years 2011-2012 was completed in 2013.

Under Pathways to Work, a report is being prepared to examine the factors influencing the level of jobless households and to develop a range of recommendations to allow Government to take additional tangible steps in 2014 to assist these households to return to work.
We will examine the social protection system with a view to identifying and eliminating poverty traps including;-

Amending the 30 hour rule for Rent Supplement and Mortgage Interest Supplement for people moving from welfare to work.

Activating people on a reduced week who refuse extra day(s) employment.

Over time, One Parent Family Payment will be replaced with a parental allowance that does not discourage marriage, cohabitation or work.

Our tax, social welfare and other laws should not discourage people from getting married or cohabiting. For example, single mothers lose the One Parent Family Payment if they marry. Over time, we will transform it into a family income-based payment that does not discourage marriage or work.
Conditions which may give rise to the development of poverty traps are analysed on an ongoing basis.

The Department’s strategic policy direction is to return rent supplement to its original purpose of a short term income support. Under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) responsibility for recipients of rent supplement with a long-term housing need will transfer from the Department of Social Protection to local authorities. One of the key benefits that HAP will bring is the removal of barriers for people currently in receipt of rent supplement in returning to employment.

Officials in the Department are working closely with those in the lead Department, Environment, Community and Local Government, who are leading the project, in developing the necessary legal, policy and operational requirements to give effect to this transfer and to pilot HAP in early 2014.

Sanctions currently exist whereby a person who refuses employment or additional employment may be subject to a disallowance. In addition, issues in relation to short-time and casual workers were referred to the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare in 2013. The outcome of group deliberations will inform Departmental policy in 2014.

Changes to the One Parent Family Payment (OFP) are currently being implemented on a phased basis to 2015. The purpose of these changes is to move the scheme much closer to the jobseeker schemes, tackle the high levels of lone parents suffering from consistent poverty and to improve outcomes for lone parents and their families.
A zero tolerance approach to welfare fraud, underpinned by a major anti-fraud enforcement drive.Progressed under the Fraud Initiative 2011-2013. Further progress will be made in the context of a new anti-fraud strategy which is being developed.
As well as more regular face-to-face interviews with an integrated employment and entitlements service for those of working age, other anti-fraud measures will be undertaken using latest available technology and better sharing of data across government departments and agencies.Continuing to build key relationships and consult and share data with external agencies, where appropriate.

Progressed the use of predictive analytics to more effectively target cases for review.
Progressively reduce reliance on Rent Supplement, with eligible recipients moving to the Rental Accommodation Scheme.At end December 2013, there were approx. 80,000 rent supplement recipients with approx. 50,000 in payment for more than 18 months. Details of these cases are notified on a quarterly basis to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG).

At the end of December 2013 a total of 47,911 households had been transferred from Rent Supplement (RS) by local authorities. Of these 28,338 were housed directly under RAS and a further 19,573 were accommodated under other social housing options.

The Department’s strategic policy direction is to return rent supplement to its original purpose of a short term income support. Under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) as approved by Government, responsibility for recipients of rent supplement with a long-term housing need will transfer from the Department of Social Protection to local authorities.
Review the operation of the Rent Supplement Scheme and introduce a code of conduct for rent supplement eligibility similar to that which operates for local authority tenants.Implementation in progress in co-operation with the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.

The purpose of this review is to ensure that tenants who are receiving long term support from the State under the Rent Supplement Scheme are subject to the same type of anti-social behaviour regime as local authority tenants.

The most appropriate way for this to happen is for local authorities to take over responsibility for meeting the accommodation needs of these individuals through the introduction of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). The Department is currently working with the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government with a view to achieving this goal.
Pay rent supplement to tax-compliant landlords registered with the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) and offering decent quality accommodation, to root out fraud.Since January 2011, it is a requirement that the landlord’s tax reference number must be supplied to the Department prior to award of a rent supplement claim.

The Department continues to provide the Revenue Commissioners with details of all rent supplement payments on an annual basis to ensure this sector is tax compliant. The Department also continues to work closely with the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) to help ensure that rent supplement tenancies comply with the statutory system of tenancy regulation and safeguards.
Divert staff from elsewhere in public service to clear the social welfare appeals backlog, and introduce a consolidated appeals process.Implemented.
Put the household benefits packages out to tender, so that the Exchequer benefits from reduced prices.Implementation not feasible based on advice from the Office of the Chief State Solicitor, the Commission for Energy Regulation and the Competition Authority as the Department is not the actual customer.

Negotiations took place with the major utility providers which resulted in improved deals and yielded savings.
Raise the issue of payment of Child Benefit in respect of non-resident children at EU level, and seek to have the entitlement modified to reflect the cost of living where a child is resident. We will examine all possible flexibility within European legislation to reduce the cost of this payment.Issue has been raised with the current EU Commissioner who is not willing to propose the legislation necessary. Therefore, it is unlikely progress can be made. Ireland is continuing to engage with other countries interested in this area and is participating in a group on Fair Free Movement which is trying to develop options which can be discussed with the EU Commission.
Ensure that trans-gender people will have legal recognition and extend the protections of the equality legislation to them.The General Scheme of the Gender Recognition Bill was published in July 2013 and referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee (JOC) on Education and Social Protection. The JOC held a public consultation and hearings in October 2013 on the General Scheme and published its report in January 2014.

Following Government consideration of the report, the General Scheme of the Bill will be referred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting with the aim of the legislation being published later in 2014.
Reform the pension system to progressively achieve universal coverage, with particular focus on lower-paid workers, to achieve better risk sharing, and to provide for greater flexibility for those who wish to retire on a phased basis.A number of measures have been implemented and further measures are under consideration.

The Minister recently informed the Dail of her intention to introduce a scheme to improve pensions coverage once the economy is in a more sustainable position. In this regard, the Minister is observing the developments in other countries with some interest.

Analysis of the recommendations outlined in the OECD Review of the Irish Pensions System, published in 2013, is on-going and will inform further developments in the area of long-term pension policy.

  Question No. 566 withdrawn.

Public Services Card Provision

 567. Deputy Kevin Humphreys Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton since the launch of the new public services card, the number that have been issued in total; the number that have been returned and replaced due to being faulty; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14158/14]

 568. Deputy Kevin Humphreys Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the person who has the contract for issuing and managing the recently launched public services card; if she is concerned at the high level of faulty cards; her plans to ensure a more robust system is in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14159/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 567 and 568 together.

The Public Services Card (PSC) has been introduced to enable individuals gain access to public services more efficiently and with a minimum of duplication of effort, while at the same time preserving their privacy to the maximum extent possible. The PSC is designed to replace other cards within the public sector such as the Free Travel Pass and the Social Services Card (SSC) of this Department and to make it easy for providers of public services to verify the identity of customers.

Approx. 615,000 PSCs have been produced to date. These include c.126,000 Free Travel variants. PSCs are produced by a managed service provider, Biometric Card Services Limited, at a facility in Bray, Co. Wicklow. The Department’s Card Management Section deals with enquiries from customers who report that their PSC or SSC did not work at the nominated Post Office. In general, there are three reasons why swiping a card in the Post Office may fail to work, including, a record for the cardholder does not exist on the An Post file, the magnetic stripe becomes faulty over time (e.g. scratched, proximity to other magnetic stripes, wear and tear etc.) or the card reader is faulty.

To date, of the total number of PSCs issued, only 310 have been returned by customers as “not working”. However, 87 of these functioned correctly when subsequently tested by Card Management Section. The remaining 223 (0.04% of all cards produced) did not work when tested. These included cards that were faulty and cards that were damaged. In all cases, the returned PSC was revoked and the person issued with a new one. It is evident from these figures that there is almost a negligible level of faulty cards. The Department endeavours to ensure that cards issued are of the highest quality, and as part of this ongoing quality control, An Post recently tested a sample of live cards in three separate locations and all read successfully without any failure. Additionally, a number of these cards were swiped over 100 times each and no failures were recorded.

  Questions Nos. 569 and 570 answered with Question No. 523.

  Question No. 571 withdrawn.


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