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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 190-203
 Header Item Regeneration Projects Funding
 Header Item Housing Data
 Header Item Private Rented Accommodation
 Header Item Hazardous Waste Removal
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing Provision
 Header Item Docklands Oversight and Consultative Forum
 Header Item State Pensions Reform
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Applications
 Header Item Wage Subsidy Scheme
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits Applications
 Header Item General Register Office
 Header Item Back to Education Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Services for People with Disabilities
 Header Item Social Insurance Data

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 911 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 60 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 190-203

Regeneration Projects Funding

 190. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his future policy on and commitment to delivering social, economic, cultural and environmental goals in regeneration areas with particular regard to the level of resource allocation given a statement (details supplied). [14137/16]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department’s regeneration programme targets the country’s most disadvantaged communities; those defined by the most extreme social exclusion, unemployment and anti-social behaviour. Regeneration seeks to rebuild these communities by addressing not just the physical environment in which they live but also by investing in the social and economic development of the areas. This Government has confirmed its continued support for the regeneration of urban centres in the recently published Programme for a Partnership Government.

Regeneration projects are currently supported by my Department through its Social Housing Capital Investment Programme. These include large projects (Dublin City, Limerick City and Cork City) and small (Tralee, Sligo and Dundalk).

Funding of €73 million is being provided in 2016 to allow for the continuation of these projects. This includes funding for social inclusion initiatives and other measures at community level in the regeneration locations.

Housing Data

 191. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of vacant residential properties owned by private citizens, banks, non-bank lenders, local authorities, in receivership and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14151/16]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department does not hold the information requested by the Deputy.

  The Housing Agency presented a paper for the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness in relation to vacant homes in Ireland. I understand the figures produced by the Housing Agency drew on Census 2011. The report is available at: http://www.housing.ie/our-publications/latest-publications.aspx.

This year’s Census will provide more information on the number of vacant units in Ireland. Moreover, the potential to bring vacant units in private ownership back into productive use will be examined in the context of drafting the Government’s Action Plan for Housing.

  In relation to vacant local authority units, high priority has been placed on supporting local authorities to return vacant social housing units to productive use for those on the housing waiting list. Between 2014 and 2015, some 5,000 such units were remediated with Exchequer support and were made available to those on housing waiting lists. Work was also carried out by local authorities themselves on vacant houses through normal pre-letting works. Over the last two years, my Department has provided some €60 million for this purpose. This investment is a very significant support to deal with the backlog of vacant social housing units and a key element in addressing urgent social housing need.

Private Rented Accommodation

 192. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if a residential tenant's rights cease if the owner of the property wishes to sell the property and seek vacant possession; his plans to address this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14152/16]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 regulates the landlord-tenant relationship in the private rented residential sector and sets out the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants. Security of tenure under the Act is based on rolling four-year tenancy cycles.   Where a tenant has been in occupation of a dwelling for a continuous period of 6 months and no notice of termination has been served in respect of that tenancy before the expiry of the period of 6 months, the tenancy is established for the remainder of the four year period. This is referred to in the Act as a ‘Part 4’ tenancy.

  A landlord may not terminate a Part 4 tenancy except on clearly defined grounds which are set out in the Table to section 34 of the Act. These grounds include that the landlord intends to sell the dwelling, that the landlord wishes to change the use of the dwelling, and that the landlord requires the dwelling for a family member.

  Amendments introduced in the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 further strengthen the protections around tenancy terminations by providing for measures that will guard against, for example, landlords falsely declaring that the property is needed for a family member, or that it is going to be sold.

  In addition, the 2015 Act introduced further graduated increases in the notice periods that must be given to tenants of the termination of a tenancy so that a landlord must now give a tenant up to a maximum of 224 days’ notice for tenancies of 8 years or more.

  The Programme for a Partnership Government contains a specific commitment to review the regulatory regime for the rented sector to ensure that an appropriate balance is struck between the rights, interests and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords.

Hazardous Waste Removal

 193. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if the remediation works carried out on the former Irish Glass Bottle site have identified all the chemicals on and being released from the site, including methane; and if the current contamination levels are safe or if further remediation works are necessary.  [14162/16]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I have no function in relation to the matters raised in this question. Notwithstanding the role performed by the Government in the designation of this general area as a Strategic Development Zone, it is subsequently a matter for the relevant development agency (in this instance, Dublin City Council), in consultation with landowners, including the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) and the wider community, to prepare a planning scheme within which all the matters raised in the Question must be addressed, including carrying out relevant environmental assessments. Furthermore, a decision on a planning scheme may be appealed to An Bord Pleanála.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

 194. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the status of the requirement to provide social housing as part of the Spencer Dock development project on North Wall Quay in the Dublin docklands; if he has agreed the use of a site at the junction of Sheriff Street Upper and New Wapping Street for the provision of such social housing; the legal status for such a requirement to provide social housing units in circumstances where the ownership of a development may have changed hands; and if there are any circumstances where such an obligation may be removed. [14164/16]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Requirements to provide social or affordable housing in Dublin Docklands development arose under the planning schemes made pursuant to the Dublin Docklands Act 1990, and in relation to future development, will arise under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000. This is now a matter for Dublin City Council and I have no role in relation to it. I cannot comment on the application of legal provisions in respect of particular cases.

Docklands Oversight and Consultative Forum

 195. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney when he will establish the Docklands Oversight and Consultative Forum; the members of the forum he has selected under the provisions of section 39 of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (Dissolution) Act 2015; when the first meetings of the forum will take place; and if he will lay formal advice or proposals the forum presents to Dublin City Council before Dáil Éireann. [14165/16]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Part 5 of The Dublin Docklands Development Authority (Dissolution) Act, 2015 contains provisions for the establishment of the Docklands Oversight and Consultative Forum and came into operation on 1 March 2016.

Dublin City Council recently nominated four councillors to the Forum. The Council has also advertised in local and national media inviting organisations who are representative of persons engaged in (a) community development (b) economic activity and (c) educational activity in the Dublin Docklands Area to express an interest in membership of the Forum. The closing date for receipt of expressions of interest is 17 June 2016.

On completion of this process I will, in accordance with Part 5 of the Act, prescribe the organisations that have expressed an interest in being part of the Docklands Oversight and Consultative Forum and additionally prescribe Public Authorities that are relevant to the work of the Forum. Following prescription I will, in consultation with the Dublin City Council, invite the prescribed bodies to nominate members to the Forum in accordance with Section 39 of the Act.

It is envisaged the first meeting of the Forum will take place in September 2016.

Section 49 of the Act requires the Forum to complete an annual report in relation to the performance of its functions and to submit it to Dublin City Council. The Council is required to submit the report to me and I will lay the report before each House of the Oireachtas.

State Pensions Reform

 196. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar to consider re-instating the supplementary State transition pension payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14039/16]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 provided for a gradual increase in the State pension age. This process began in January 2014 with the abolition of the State pension (transition) previously available at 65, thereby standardising State pension age for all at 66 years. There are no plans to introduce changes to this legislation which was introduced on foot of a Government commitment included in the National Recovery Plan published in 2010 and in the subsequent Memorandum of Understanding with the EU/ECB/IMF.

Each year more people are living to pension age and living longer in retirement. As a result of this demographic change, the number of State pension recipients is increasing by approximately 17,000 annually. This has significant implications for the future costs of State pension provision which are currently increasing by close to €1 billion every 5 years. The purpose of changes to the State pension age is to make the pension system more sustainable in the context of increasing life expectancy.

In January 2016, and with reference to a number of factors including the increasing age at which a State pension can be drawn, the previous Government established an Interdepartmental Working Group, chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, to consider policy that will support fuller working lives. This Group, on which my Department is represented, is examining the implications arising from prevailing retirement ages for workers in both the private and public sectors. I understand the Group is due to report to Government in the near future.

Invalidity Pension Applications

 197. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the status of an application by a person (details supplied) under the invalidity pension scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14085/16]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Invalidity pension (IP) is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the pay related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions.

The department received a claim for IP for the person concerned on 19 January 2016. In order to establish medical suitability, forms for completion issued to the person concerned on 19 February 2016. Following the issue of reminders, the completed medical forms were returned to the department on 1 April 2016. A social welfare inspector’s report on the circumstances of the person in question was also requested in order to assist in determining eligibility.

The person concerned has been awarded invalidity pension with effect from the 21 January 2016. Payment will issue to his nominated bank account on the 16 June 2016. Any arrears due from the 21 January 2016 to the 15 June 2016 (less any overlapping social welfare payment and/or outstanding overpayment) will issue in due course. The person in question was notified of this decision on the 31 May 2016.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Wage Subsidy Scheme

 198. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the steps he has taken or will take to address the loss of jobs by 14 disabled workers at the Rehab Enterprises cardboard box manufacturing facility on the Hebron Industrial Estate, Kilkenny, given the announcement this month by Rehab Enterprises that it will close the facility and that these special needs workers all qualify for the wage subsidy scheme; if he will intervene and secure the facts regarding the economics of this enterprise; if the closure is irreversible, if he will help ensure alternative employment is secured in the Kilkenny area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13674/16]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The wage subsidy scheme (WSS) is a support to private sector employers, providing financial incentives to employers who take on people with a disability for between 21 and 39 hours per week under a contract of employment. Rehab Enterprises, which is one of the largest organisations providing employment to people with disabilities in Ireland, was closely involved in the setting up of this scheme.

Rehab Enterprises currently employs 17 people at its cardboard box manufacturing facility in the Hebron Industrial Estate in Kilkenny. 14 of these employees have disabilities, 13 of whom are supported through the WSS.

Officials from my Department have been in contact with Rehab Enterprises regarding their plans to close their facility in Kilkenny. I understand that the closure of this facility is due to the availability of lower cost packaging from elsewhere and as a result the business is considered to be no longer viable. Rehab Enterprises have stated that they are committed to continuing to employ the members of this workforce through redeployment. However, where another reasonable role is not available, Rehab has undertaken to work with each person to help them to get alternative employment, training or other activity, which meet their needs and wishes. Furthermore, my Department will assist and work with Rehab to provide appropriate supports to the people affected by this announcement, which may include assistance from the local EmployAbility service and for those who have an income support need, expediting applications for disability allowance or other suitable payment.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits Applications

 199. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the status of an application by a person (details supplied) under the illness benefit scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14022/16]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar An application for disability allowance was received from the person in question and, based upon the evidence submitted, was refused on medical grounds.

  The person concerned requested a review of the decision by a deciding officer (DO) and submitted additional evidence for consideration. The review has now been concluded by a DO but the outcome is that the decision to refuse on medical grounds has been confirmed. They were notified of this on 1 June 2016 and advised of their right to appeal the decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

General Register Office

 200. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding a birth certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14023/16]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Section 65 of the Civil Registration Act 2004, provides that an tArd-Chláraitheoir (Registrar General) may examine an entry in a register to determine whether the entry is correct and complete and where an entry is found to be incorrect or incomplete arrange for the correction and completion of the entry.

  The application to which the Deputy refers is being examined under that section of the Civil Registration Act 2004 by the General Register Office.

  The General Register Office can be contacted as follows:

  Email Address: gro@groireland.ie  

  By Telephone: Direct Dial +353(0)90 663 2900

  LoCall: 1890252076

  By Fax: + 353(0)90 663 2999

  By Post:

  General Register Office

  Government Buildings

  Convent Road

  Co. Roscommon.

Back to Education Allowance Eligibility

 201. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if a MSc in psychological science is an eligible course for support under the back to education scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [14034/16]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The objective of the back to education allowance scheme (BTEA) is to assist those who are distant from the labour market to acquire the necessary education to improve their chances of becoming independent of the social welfare system. The BTEA, which is designed to support second chance education, enables eligible persons to pursue approved education courses and to continue to receive income support for the duration of a course of study, subject to meeting certain conditions.

Other than the Professional Masters in Education, which is a pre-requisite to taking up a teaching post, the BTEA does not provide income support to customers seeking to pursue a qualification at Masters Level. I have no plans to alter the current arrangement.

Services for People with Disabilities

 202. Deputy Jack Chambers Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar to provide further information on the fit for work programme referenced in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14047/16]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The recently agreed programme for a partnership government provides for a range of actions that are designed to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. One of these actions is a proposal for the Departments of Health and Social Protection to work together to pursue a “Fit for Work Programme” to support more people with an illness or disability to get back to work through early intervention.

The “Fit for Work” proposal is based on the findings of a pan European study, which examined the impact of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) on an individual’s ability to work. The Irish module of this study was progressed by a coalition of key stakeholders and was led by Arthritis Ireland. The Irish College of General Practitioners, ICTU, IBEC and the Health & Safety Authority also contributed to the study.

Early interventions and developing return to work practices in the case of people with musculoskeletal incapacities is consistent with my Department’s approach to illness/disability income support, which aims to reduce the number of people progressing to chronic disability and long-term social welfare dependency. To this end, my Department has in 2015, issued a set of certification guidelines for GPs, which sets out defined periods of recovery for common medical conditions, including MSDs.

While specific proposals for a “Fit for Work Programme” require further development and scoping out, I would like to assure the Deputy that any such proposals will be in line with the wealth of evidence which shows that generally employment is good for one’s mental and physical health and well-being and, conversely, that unemployment is damaging.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy

Social Insurance Data

 203. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of persons paying class K pay related social insurance who have passed 66 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14059/16]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar In 2014 there were 765 Class K contributors who were over 66 years of age. 2014 is the most recent year for which full year figures are available.


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