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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 41-60
 Header Item Apprenticeship Programmes
 Header Item School Services Staff
 Header Item Teacher Recruitment
 Header Item School Curriculum
 Header Item School Management
 Header Item Third Level Courses Availability
 Header Item Student Support Schemes
 Header Item School Staff
 Header Item Schools Designation
 Header Item Supplementary Welfare Allowance Data
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance Data
 Header Item Fuel Allowance Applications
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Data
 Header Item Civil Registration Legislation
 Header Item Free Travel Scheme Applications
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility
 Header Item Disability Allowance Applications
 Header Item Disability Allowance Applications
 Header Item Disability Allowance Applications

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 900 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 67 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 41-60

Apprenticeship Programmes

 41. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan the progress of the Apprenticeship Council which has recently marked one year in operation. [43868/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The Apprenticeship Council devised and issued a call for proposals from enterprises and education and training providers for the development of new apprenticeships early in 2014. Following the receipt of proposals and an evaluation process, the Council reported to the Minister recommending 25 proposals for priority development. The Minister approved this recommendation and announced the 25 Category 1 proposals in July.

The Apprenticeship Council is now working with the 25 category one proposers on developing the new apprenticeships. Project plans have recently been submitted by consortia and the Council is engaging with them prior to approving the plans. The approved development plans will include timelines for delivery. The Council will work with consortia to commence enrolments on as many of the new apprenticeships as possible in 2016.

School Services Staff

 42. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if she will address the anomaly whereby school secretaries are on inferior contracts compared to departmental secretaries and initiate a system of parity with this grade, including a defined pay scale and pension and sick leave entitlements. [43691/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan A scheme was initiated in 1978 for the employment of Clerical Officers in primary and secondary schools. While a small number of these staff remain in schools, the schemes are being phased out and have been superseded by a more extensive grant scheme.

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools in the Free Education Scheme now receive capitation grant assistance to provide for secretarial (and/or caretaking) services. Within the capitation grant schemes, it is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs and the Department does not stipulate how these services are to be obtained. Where a school uses the grant funding to employ a secretary or caretaker, such staff are employees of individual schools. My Department therefore does not have any role in determining the pay and conditions under which they are engaged. These are matters to be agreed between the staff concerned and the school authorities.

Notwithstanding the above, my Department recently engaged in an arbitration process regarding the pay of School Secretaries and Caretakers. The Arbitrator recommended increases in the hourly rates paid to School Secretaries and Caretakers and the establishment of a minimum hourly pay rate.

The Arbitrator's recommendations have now been accepted by both sides. My Department will shortly issue a Circular giving effect to the measures to apply from 1 January 2016 i.e. an increase of 2.5% in the hourly pay rate and the introduction of a minimum hourly rate of €10.25.

Teacher Recruitment

 43. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if she will address the continued use of the JobBridge scheme to employ teachers within schools. [43697/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan JobBridge is a national internship scheme administered by the Department of Social Protection. The scheme was introduced to provide a pathway to appropriate employment, training and education opportunities for a specific cohort of jobseekers on the Live Register. Changes to the scheme are therefore a matter for the Department of Social Protection in the first instance. In this regard I understand that Department is currently undertaking a planned independent evaluation of the scheme to determine its suitability, effectiveness and relevance as an activation programme. The outcome of this evaluation will provide an evidential basis upon which they can determine how the scheme may be improved.

Recognised Schools and Education and Training Boards may participate in the scheme if they wish under Department of Education and Skills Circular 46/2011. An internship must not cause an existing member of staff to be displaced from the school or be used to fill a current vacancy in the school. Interns are in addition to any staffing allocation a school/ETB has.

In this regard it should be noted that Budget 2016 allows for an improvement in the staffing schedule in primary schools by one point, from 1 teacher for every 28 pupils to 1 teacher for every 27 pupils. At post-primary the schedule will improve by 0.3 points, from 19:1 to 18.7:1. It is estimated that this measure and some other budgetary improvements in primary and post-primary schedules will result in an additional 300 posts at primary and 550 posts at post-primary.

School Curriculum

 44. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if she will provide a practical application to the right of a child to opt out of religion classes instead of continuing the current situation of forcing a child to remain present in a classroom during religious education against the wishes and judgment of the child's parents or guardians. [43692/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Under the Constitution and in accordance with the Education Act 1998, parents have a right to have their children opt out of religion classes and it is expected that this right will be upheld by schools on foot of a parental request.

The practical arrangements by which schools ensure that the right to opt out of religion classes is accommodated is a matter for each individual school. On occasion there can be practical issues around supervision and arranging class times and these have to be considered by schools at local level and worked through in a pragmatic way.

In this regard, I believe that difficulties could be avoided if, from the outset, a school's arrangements for those students who do not wish to attend religious instruction are made clear to all parents concerned. It is for that reason that the forthcoming Admissions to School Bill includes a specific requirement that school enrolment policies must include details of the school's arrangements for any students who do not wish to attend religious instruction. The Bill was published in April of this year and is on the Government's legislative programme for enactment in this session.

School Management

 45. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan her plans to rebuild a middle management structure in our primary and secondary schools. [43917/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Economic constraints and the moratorium on recruitment, albeit alleviated to some extent for schools, have presented challenges within the education sector. They also provide an opportunity to review the role of the principal so that our principals are leaders of learning, and to reconfigure the middle management structure to support principals in their role, ensuring ownership of responsibility rather than tasks, thereby building expertise and supporting a career path within the profession.

The Department, in consultation with the representative management bodies, has commenced an exploration of the opportunities to support and thereby advance our understanding of the needs of school leaders and how they might be addressed. Last week, I formally launched the newly established Centre for School Leadership (CSL). The Centre's responsibilities will cover the continuum of professional development for school leaders, from pre-appointment training and induction of newly appointed principals, to continuing professional development throughout careers. The Centre is operating on a partnership basis between the Department of Education and Skills, the Irish Primary Principals' Network (IPPN) and the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD). The partnership will have many benefits for the profession in terms of the quality of training programmes, coordination of provision, and increased accessibility.

The Deputy will be aware that I have made provision in Budget 2016 for some 2,260 additional teaching posts for our primary and post primary schools next year. These posts will provide for an improvement in the staffing schedules at primary and post primary levels, enhance the leadership and management roles of deputy principals at post-primary level by reducing their teaching time, an improvement to the scheme of release time for principal teachers at primary level and additional resource posts to meet special education needs.

Third Level Courses Availability

 46. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if she is aware of the practice whereby third level institutes do not fill all their places, but maintain points at an inflated level in order to make the course more attractive; if she has investigated this alleged practice; the action she has taken in respect of individual institutions; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [43693/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan While the number of places offered on courses within Higher Education Authority (HEA) funded institutions is a matter for the institutions themselves to decide upon, the issue raised by the Deputy has arisen in the main due to the proliferation of specialist undergraduate programmes in recent years (and the limited number of places available on such programmes). This is a cause for concern for both my Department and the HEA. Accordingly my Department and the HEA have, since 2011, been working in partnership with key stakeholders and higher education institutions to broaden entry to undergraduate courses at level 8 of the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), while at the same time reducing the number of grading bands used in the Leaving Certificate examination and developing a new CAO points scale to correlate with these. Full details of this initiative to reform the transition from secondary to higher education, and the reports published on this, are available at http://www.transition.ie/. Under this on-going reform initiative, the seven universities have committed to achieving a significant reduction in the number of NFQ level 8 courses which they offer over the next 2 years.

Student Support Schemes

 47. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan how she is responding to foreign students who, in some cases, experience language difficulties when dealing with the educational system. [43876/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The level of extra teaching support provided in respect of language support to schools is determined by the numbers of eligible pupils enrolled and the associated levels of those pupils' language proficiency.

Reforms introduced in the 2012/13 school year created a single simplified allocation process for both learning and language support. At primary level, learning/language support hours are allocated on the basis of mainstream classroom teaching posts in the school. At post-primary level, learning/language support is allocated on the basis of pupil numbers. Schools have autonomy to deploy this resource between learning support and language support depending on the specific needs of the school.

These arrangements also provided for additional permanent teaching posts to be given to schools with high concentration of pupils that require language support.

Further additional temporary support is also provided, as necessary, to schools that have high concentrations of pupils that require language (EAL) support. At primary level, these allocations are made on the basis of appeals by any of these schools to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board. Where at least 20% of the total enrolment of the school is made up of pupils that require EAL support, the school may lodge an appeal with the Appeals Board. Having considered the circumstances outlined by the school and having regard to the high number of pupils requiring EAL support, additional post(s) may be approved by the Appeals Board.

The Teaching Council's criteria for Initial Teacher Education (ITE) sets out the mandatory elements to be contained in all Initial Teacher Education Programmes. These include Inclusive Education, (Special Education, Multiculturalism, Disadvantage, etc) Literacy, Numeracy and Differentiation. The Council's criteria does not overly prescribe what should be covered in programmes, rather, the approach is that ITE is about the development of critical core skills, which can then be applied to any range of issues in the classroom, possibly with the benefit of further upskilling post-qualification.

The Professional Development Service for Teachers offer workshops and school support in the area of EAL to primary schools. The purpose of the workshops is to provide key information on EAL to both language support teachers and teachers supporting children with EAL under the general allocation model. At post-primary level, support is made available to schools on request in the area of EAL and work on literacy incorporates aspects of EAL in many cases.

School Staff

 48. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan why, under the current staffing schedule, mainstream schools with 15 to 27 teachers require 37 extra pupils to gain or retain a teacher, while schools with more than 27 or fewer than 15 teachers only require an extra 26 pupils to gain or retain a teacher; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43882/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The staffing schedule at primary level operates on the basis of 1 classroom teacher for an average of every 28 pupils. More favourable ratios operate in DEIS Band 1 schools.

Under an agreement reached with the Education Partners for the 2010/11 school year my Department provided 50 additional posts to the primary sector and 100 additional posts to the post-primary sector. At primary level, as these posts were additional to those required to cater for demographic growth, some improvements were made to the staffing schedule for the 2010/11 school year. These improvements were targeted at medium-to-larger schools typically under the greatest pressure in relation to class sizes. At post-primary level, additional supports were targeted at co-educational schools in single post-primary catchment areas and at schools that join together with other local post primary schools to increase subject choice in a town.

The application of these additional posts to the primary staffing schedule resulted in the schedule operating on the basis of 1 classroom teacher for an average of every 27 pupils between the bands of 8 classroom teachers and 16 classroom teachers. The 37 pupil difference arises only at the point between 16 and 17 classroom teachers. However given that the standard size of a school is 16 classrooms this issue does not typically arise. An average of 28 to 1 applies for the bands of 18 classroom teachers upwards.

The Deputy will be aware that I have announced a 1 point improvement to the primary staffing schedule in the context of Budget 2016. The improved staffing schedule which is available on the Department website will be implemented for the 2016/17 school year.

The application of this 1 point improvement to the primary staffing schedule will result in the schedule operating on the basis of 1 classroom teacher for an average of every 26 pupils between the bands of 8 classroom teachers and 16 classroom teachers.

The staffing arrangements for all schools for the 2016/17 school year will be published early in 2016.

Schools Designation

 49. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if she will award DEIS status to a school (details supplied) in County Mayo, so that its pupils will have parity with pupils in neighbouring schools and will not suffer any disadvantage through no fault of their own; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [43694/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I would like to point out that an extensive identification process to select schools for inclusion in DEIS was conducted in 2005. In spite of a number of reminders issued by my Department, a completed survey form was not received at that time from the school in question and therefore it could not be assessed for participation in DEIS. Furthermore, the school did not participate in a follow-up appeal process to address the concerns of schools that did not qualify for DEIS status.

As the Deputy will no doubt be aware, a process for the review of the DEIS Programme which I announced earlier this year, is currently underway in my Department. This review is being undertaken over the course of the current school year and will consider all issues pertaining to educational disadvantage, including the methodology for identifying schools for inclusion in future programmes. While this process is underway, I do not intend to make any changes to the current programme, including the addition of any further schools.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Data

 50. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the amount directly paid in allowances under the adult refugees programme to persons and their dependants residing in a hotel (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44362/15]

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Kevin Humphreys): Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys A number of programme refugees are currently resident in Kildare. Programme refugees are generally entitled to supports under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, including weekly payments, assistance under the exceptional needs payments (ENP) scheme and the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance. Depending on the circumstances of the individual or family, payment of the relevant social welfare payment appropriate to their circumstances may also be payable including child benefit. ENPs are generally payable to assist meeting essential expenditure such as clothing, child related items and other incidental requirements.

The Department assesses the value of the non-cash benefits provided by the State to persons residing in the system of direct provision when determining rates of social welfare payments. This may result in a reduction of the weekly amount payable taking into account that basic requirements such as food, accommodation and other services are provided.

The amount paid to the individual families in the hotel referred to by the Deputy is a matter between the individuals and the Department.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Data

 51. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of children in receipt of a domiciliary care allowance in each of the years 2013 to date, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44258/15]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The number of recipients and children in receipt of domiciliary care allowance in 2013, 2014 and to date in 2015 are detailed in the following table.

No. in receipt of Domiciliary Care Allowance

YearNo. of RecipientsNo. of Children
31/12/201325,51027,363
31/12/201427,26829,269
30/11/201529,24131,548

Fuel Allowance Applications

 52. Deputy Dan Neville Information on Dan Neville Zoom on Dan Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the status of an application for a fuel allowance by a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44262/15]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Fuel Allowance is a payment under the National Fuel Scheme to help with the cost of heating a home during the winter months. It is paid to people who are dependent on long-term social welfare payments and who are unable to provide for their own heating needs. Only one Fuel Allowance is paid to a household.

Illness benefit is a payment for people who cannot work due to illness and who satisfy the Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions. Illness benefit is classed as a short term scheme and as such is not a qualifying payment for a fuel allowance.

Rent Supplement Scheme Data

 53. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton why there are so many recipients of rent supplement in the local authorities where the housing assistance payment has been rolled out, given that the level of allowable rent is much higher under the housing assistance payment than under the rent supplement; and the number of new recipients of rent supplement since the housing assistance payment has been rolled out in the local authorities where it is available by local authority. [44265/15]

 64. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of recipients under the rent supplement scheme, of active tenancies under the housing assistance payment scheme, the number of households who have applied to have their rent supplement increased above the current threshold, the number who have had their rent supplement increased, the number who have been refused, by county, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44432/15]

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Kevin Humphreys): Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 53 and 64 together.

  Rent supplement plays a vital role in housing families and individuals, with the scheme supporting approximately 62,000 people at a cost of €298 million in 2015. The provision for 2015 represents a transfer of funding in excess of €20 million to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to support the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). Approximately 18,800 rent supplement tenancies have been awarded this year. A county breakdown of this information and current rent supplement recipients is provided in the following tabular statement, however a breakdown by local authority is not maintained.

  The Department’s strategic direction is to transfer responsibility of persons with long term housing needs to the local authorities under HAP. In local authority areas where HAP is in place, new applicants assessed as requiring social housing support will be considered for HAP rather than rent supplement. Rent supplement will continue to be paid to households who are already in the private rented sector but who, generally because of a loss of income through unemployment, require a short term income support to pay their rent. Progress is being made in transferring persons in receipt of rent supplement for periods in excess of 18 months to HAP, with almost 2,000 cases transferred to date. The complete transfer from rent supplement to HAP for those tenancies which require long term housing support will occur over time. Officials in the Department continue to work closely with those in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the local authorities to further roll out HAP and to ensure that customers are supported in the transition from rent supplement. Policy responsibility and reporting on HAP is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

  In view of the reduction of supply in the private rented market and increasing rents at this time, the Department of Social Protection has implemented a policy approach that allows for flexibility in assessing customers’ individual accommodation needs on a case by case basis. Departmental staff administering rent supplement have a statutory discretionary power to award or increase a supplement for rental purposes, for example, when dealing with applicants who are risk of losing their tenancy or in danger of homelessness. This flexible approach has already assisted approximately 5,500 rent supplement households throughout the country to retain their rented accommodation. A county breakdown of the number of payments made in excess of the current rent limits is also provided in the tables following. Statistics are not maintained on the number of applications requested and refused rent supplement increases.

  These measures and the reforms to the private rental sector announced last month will provide increased certainty for both tenants and landlords in the current market.

  Table 1: Rent Supplement Recipients by County, End November 2015

CountyRecipients
CARLOW993
CAVAN403
CLARE1,074
CORK6,955
DONEGAL1,316
DUBLIN23,920
GALWAY3,337
KERRY1,618
KILDARE3,468
KILKENNY563
LAOIS973
LEITRIM327
LIMERICK1,511
LONGFORD381
LOUTH1,508
MAYO1,535
MEATH1,538
MONAGHAN276
OFFALY847
ROSCOMMON604
SLIGO476
TIPPERARY1,704
WATERFORD974
WESTMEATH1,421
WEXFORD2,283
WICKLOW2,004
Total62,009


  Table 2: New Rent Supplement Recipients in 2015
CountyRecipients
CARLOW263
CAVAN198
CLARE382
CORK2,343
DONEGAL414
DUBLIN6,117
GALWAY1,045
KERRY718
KILDARE854
KILKENNY139
LAOIS378
LEITRIM151
LIMERICK335
LONGFORD209
LOUTH377
MAYO573
MEATH588
MONAGHAN73
OFFALY218
ROSCOMMON261
SLIGO276
TIPPERARY784
WATERFORD202
WESTMEATH561
WEXFORD874
WICKLOW460
Total:18,793


  Table 3: Total Increased Rental Payments by County at 07/12//2015
CountyAwards under National Tenancy Sustainment FrameworkAwards under protocol with ThresholdTotal no. of increased payments by County
Carlow21 21
Cavan13 13
Clare60 60
Cork20468272
Donegal- -
Dublin2,0581,5883,646
Galway101 101
Kerry18 18
Kildare189 189
Kilkenny110 110
Laois97 97
Leitrim44 44
Limerick7 7
Longford90 90
Louth71 71
Mayo3 3
Meath235 235
Monaghan1 1
Offaly49 49
Roscommon12 12
Sligo- -
Tipperary165 165
Waterford26 26
Westmeath89 89
Wexford7 7
Wicklow82 82
Total3,7521,6565,408

Civil Registration Legislation

 54. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will address a query from a person (details supplied) in County Cork about an Irish citizen marrying a non-European Union citizen. [44286/15]

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Kevin Humphreys): Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys The Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2014 was signed into law in December 2014 and contains a wide range of provisions.

The right to marry is a basic right and the institution of marriage is protected under our Constitution. EU citizens and their families have the right to move and reside freely within the territories of the Member States. Following a ruling of the European Court of Justice in the Metock case in 2008, the right of EU citizens and their families to move and reside freely within the territories of the Member States was extended to non-EU national spouses of non-Irish EU nationals. However, these rights are being abused by unscrupulous individuals who are using marriage laws in Ireland to gain an automatic right of residency in the EU. There is concern that a potential link exists to the trafficking of women, particularly young women, where they are coerced into taking part in marriages of convenience.

The Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2014 includes provisions that make it more difficult to broker a marriage of convenience in the State. This is achieved by making a marriage of convenience an impediment to marriage and allowing a registrar the right to investigate. The Act also provides for increased sharing of information in relation to suspected marriages of convenience between the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Justice and Equality with regard to marriages of convenience.

The provisions related to preventing marriages of convenience taking place in the State were commenced on 18 August 2015.

However, due to industrial action by staff of the Civil Registration Service in the Health Service Executive (HSE), the scheduling of interviews, where one or more of the parties to the proposed marriage is a non-EU national, is being delayed.

Staffing and resolution of industrial relations issues in the Civil Registration Service are a matter for the HSE. However I am concerned about the matter and my officials, while not directly involved in the dispute, have made the HSE aware of these concerns. I understand that discussions are ongoing and that good progress has been made and it should be possible for marriages, such as that referred to by the Deputy, to go ahead as planned in 2016.

Free Travel Scheme Applications

 55. Deputy Noel Coonan Information on Noel Coonan Zoom on Noel Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when an application for a companion free travel pass for a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary will be finalised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44297/15]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The application for a Companion Free Travel Pass from the person concerned was medically assessed by a Medical Assessor on 8 December 2015. The medical opinion has been conveyed to Household Benefits Section, Sligo and the applicant will be contacted shortly regarding the decision on their application.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

 56. Deputy Billy Timmins Information on Billy Timmins Zoom on Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the status of an appeal for a carer's allowance by a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and when a decision will be made. [44298/15]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who has decided to hold an oral hearing in this case on 10 December 2015. The person concerned has been notified of the arrangements for the 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.

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

 57. Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the support systems in place to assist a person (details supplied). [44305/15]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person in question is currently in receipt of maximum rate disability allowance for her circumstances insofar as the department is aware of them. Fuel allowance is also in payment during the relevant season. The person concerned is advised to contact their local citizens information centre who will advise her if there are any other forms of assistance appropriate to her specific circumstances.

Disability Allowance Applications

 58. Deputy Noel Coonan Information on Noel Coonan Zoom on Noel Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when an application for a disability allowance will be finalised for a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44311/15]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The application for DA from the person in question, based upon the evidence submitted, was refused on medical grounds and the person in question was notified in writing of this decision on 12 November 2015.

Further medical evidence has been received in this case and referred to a deciding officer for review. When the deciding officer has reached a decision on this review, notification of the outcome will issue directly to the person in question.

Disability Allowance Applications

 59. Deputy Noel Coonan Information on Noel Coonan Zoom on Noel Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when an application for a disability allowance will be finalised for a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44319/15]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The entitlement of the person concerned (RIP) to disability allowance has been established and payment of DA is due with effect from 16 September 2015 to 6 October 2015. The Department is currently making the necessary enquiries so that arrangements for the issue of payment due may be made.

  Please convey my sympathy and that of the Department to the bereaved family of the person in question.

Disability Allowance Applications

 60. Deputy John Browne Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when an application for a disability allowance will be finalised for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44335/15]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person in question has been awarded a disability allowance payment with effect from 6 May 2015. First payment will be made by his chosen payment method on 30 December 2015.


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